UK MPs recommend laws compelling Google to censor search results

A committee of UK MPs investigating the Internet's role in compromising Britain's privacy laws have concluded that the best way to ensure that court orders demanding suppression of tittle-tattle about the love-lives of celebrities and oligarchs (as well as the criminal misdeeds of giant corporations) is to order Google to censor its search results for British people, to make sure that we don't discover these activities. They have recommended that Parliament pass a law ordering Google to develop censorship programmes for use in the UK. They also want more British people sued for violating UK privacy orders -- which are the go-to legislative vehicle for censoring legitimate criticism by outspending your critics -- on the Internet. Finally, they want advertisers to pull their ads from websites and newspapers that refuse the "voluntary" code of conduct that demands the media kowtow to the courts' secrecy orders.

I like the idea of strong privacy legislation, but the UK tradition of using "privacy" as the rubric for censorship on behalf of the rich and powerful robs these recommendations of any legitimacy.

"Google and other search engines should take steps to ensure that their websites are not used as vehicles to breach the law and should actively develop and use such technology," the committee said. "We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so it should be introduced."

The committee gave a clean bill of health to high court privacy injunctions, but said that they should routinely apply to websites such as Twitter and Facebook as well as newspapers. They urged the attorney general to be more willing to launch contempt of court claims against internet users if they are suspected of breaching privacy injunctions online, after it was found that the Giggs injunction was tweeted about more than 75,000 times when it finally collapsed in May last year.

In a series of recommendations on the future of press regulation, the committee said the reformed Press Complaints Commission should have the power to fine newspapers and determine the prominence of printed apologies. It urged advertisers to withdraw funding from newspapers and major blogs that opt out of the reconstituted regulator, and threatened "statutory oversight" from a body such as Ofcom if the industry cannot agree a credible package of reforms.

Google should be forced to censor search results, say MPs


  1. So, what do they have in the UK to influence this kind of thing besides protest? Is there even lobbying in the way we see in the US?

      1. Given the fall of his Defense Minister a few months back under almost equally creepy circumstances, I’m surprised that Mr. Cameron isn’t in deeper shit. But I suppose that people look at Ed Miliband and sink into hopelessness at the alternative.

        1. Indeed. A few months before that, there was Coulson, too! (News of the World editor –> Cameron’s spin doctor –> jail)

          Call-me-Dave really knows how to pick his friends.

          Miliband may not look great, but come the next election, I can’t help but feel he could win on a campaign of nothing more than:

          “Remember Andy Coulson, Liam Fox, and Peter Cruddas?”

          1. I think it will boil down to whether or not the electorate remembers who ran up the credit cards without any way to pay them off.

          2. Antonious, well… neither party’s even remotely blameless for the debt. The really big stinker’s PFI ( ), which, yes, Labour loved during the Blair/Brown years because it let them fudge the official debt figures. On the other hand, the coalition’s showing no signs of giving PFI up, and the scheme was introduced by… Major’s Conservative government.

            And it’d sure help with those bills if HMRC didn’t go around doing things like letting Vodafone off £6bn in back taxes ( ). On the Tories’ watch.

    1. I’m pretty sure the people getting sued are Facebook and Twitter, not the people who tweeted things. Though either is a disturbing thought, and we’re right back to sites trying to filter material that they don’t have the expertise to distinguish (cf Youtube/Viacom). They’ll learn at some point, right?

      1.  Uh, you might think so, but remember the definition of insanity:   repeating something over and over again, expecting different results.

  2. Delightful that the example used is that of a soccerhole who couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.   That’s a brilliant reason to erect a Great Wall.

  3. So I wonder: where’s the backlash to this sort of shit?

    It’s beyond obvious to point out how Orwellian the UK has become; when can we expect V for Vendetta to become the mainstream reply?

    Hello, UK…? Wake the fuck up, maybe?

      1.  I guess it’s not a bad start… better late than never, I guess.

        But what I really wonder is if Alan Moore will get anywhere near the traction he deserves. As for Orwell, on the one hand invoking him is like a cliche, but on the other his warnings don’t seem to have done much good.

        1. We do have a long tradition of protest… I’m not sure if you’re maybe thinking of a different country.

          We do however have the same problem as most countries, in that the majority of people would rather sit quietly at home than get involved in politics.  Things have to get a lot worse than censoring a few Google results to get the middle classes riled up.

          1. A small part of me would quite like to see the British truly hacked off about something.

            I vaguely remember the miner’s strikes being somewhat mental but that was a relatively small proportion of society and I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if something truly huge kicked off.

          2. I doubt that the middle classes will ever do much except sit at home. How evident were they in the poll tax riots? They have too much to lose (imprisonment doesn’t look good on a CV – especially for rioting). The right mix of policies which restrict freedom and impose a financial penalty for the privilege will always get the right people suitably riled.

    1. Eh, it was just a committee report, there’s a long way to go before their recommendations become law. It’s not Orwellian that someone, somewhere, comes to dumb conclusions; it’s just business as usual.

  4. on the other hand this may allow room for alternative search that doesnt bunghole its results.

    1. What “room for alternative search” do you think is currently lacking? And how would a law that imposes restrictions on internet search create or allow it?

      Doing my best to understand your comment… maybe you mean that a search engine which provably made no special cases and ranked its results by a set of public criteria could get some kind of special dispensation or safe harbour from the legislation? Unlikely. And anyway, the search results would be caked in SEO slime within about a week, becoming effectively unusable.

      Nah, I don’t get it. Care to elaborate?

  5. “The committee gave a clean bill of health to high court privacy injunctions … concluded that the existing position, where each case is judged by the courts on an individual basis, is now working reasonably well.”

    HAHAHAHAHAA… AHAHAHahahaahaa… hee… hahaha… heeeeh… heh. I see this committee’s grasp of reality is tenuous at best.

    Wait, that’s not funny. These guys are lawmakers.



    “Google was criticised by the committee for its “totally unconvincing” objection to requests to filter its search results. The search giant argued that such a policy could threaten the unfettered flow of information online.”

    IOW, “we don’t understand you, so we’re just gonna ignore you”. If they could have refuted Google’s argument convincingly, why didn’t they? That they felt the need to just brush it off is telling as to their also-tenuous grasp of technology.

    1. To be fair, it isn’t like Goggle’s reply wasn’t itself pretty vague and hand-wavey.

      On the issue at hand, I suppose the difference between “privacy” and “censorship” is whether we like the people it’s applied to.

  6. I think it’s kind of sweet the way they don’t take other search engines into account. Or TOR, or spoofing your geo-location, or, y’know, any of the other trivial ways around this sort of thing.

    Still, gotta keep people from knowing too much, right? Heaven forbid they learn what politicians and the like have been up to and hold them account.

  7. Is this just another way of protecting the Murdoch press by censoring anyone wanting to break this ‘news’ before his red top rag gets hold of it.

  8. If these people are truly concerned about privacy, why don’t they do something about all of those CCTV cameras in London?

    Oh, THEIR privacy – I get it now.

    1. You got that right!
      censorship does not equate to privacy
      Real privacy would be making sure that corporations can’t collect your information and sell it.  Real censorship would be making it illegal to complain about it.

  9. “They urged the attorney general to be more willing to launch contempt of court claims against internet users if they are suspected of breaching privacy injunctions online, after it was found that the Giggs injunction was tweeted about more than 75,000 times when it finally collapsed in May last year.”

    This is just absurd.  The Giggs injunction was a super-injunction, meaning the public was forbidden from even knowing it existed.

  10. I’m not convinced that there’s any way towards meaningful privacy regulation that doesn’t favor the wealthy in extremely problematic ways. I’d love to see a coherent argument otherwise, if anyone’s got one lying around. 

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