May 5, 2006 7:34 AM PDT

Suit accuses Google of profiting from child porn

Google has made child pornography an "obscenely profitable and integral part" of its business and must be stopped, a new lawsuit claims.

Jeffrey Toback, a Democratic representative in New York's Nassau County Legislature, charged in a complaint filed Thursday that Google has been taking in billions of dollars by allowing child pornography and "other obscene content" operators to advertise their sites through sponsored links, which are tailored to a user's search terms and automatically accompany search results. The suit was filed in the New York Supreme Court.

Among other allegations, the complaint evoked the politically volatile topic of the search engine's dealings in China.

"Defendant is willing to accede to the demands of the Chinese autocrats to block the search term 'democracy,'" the complaint states, "but when it comes to the protection and well-being of our nation's innocent children, Defendant refuses to spend a dime's worth of resources to block child pornography from reaching children."

A Google representative said Friday that the company prohibits child pornography in its products and removes all such content whenever the company finds or is made aware of it. "We also report it to the appropriate law enforcement officials and fully cooperate with the law enforcement community to combat child pornography," spokesman Steve Langdon said in an e-mail.

Langdon pointed to the content policy for Google's AdWords sponsored links service, which broadly prohibits "promotion of child pornography or other non-consensual material." Langdon also noted that Google offers a filtering tool called SafeSearch that aims to block offensive content in search results.

The availability of such tools could mean that the suit may not go far. Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act protects providers and users of an "interactive computer service" from liability if it can be shown that they took good-faith measures to restrict access to obscene material. It also provides that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

The suit, which claims Google acted negligently and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the public, requests monetary damages to be determined at trial. It also accuses Google of violating federal statutes relating to child pornography and calls for the court to order that Google cease "advertising, promoting, or distributing" child pornography through its site or otherwise providing any links to such content.

The suit was filed by the White Plains, N.Y.-based firm of Meiselman, Denlea, Packman, Carton & Eberz. Other recent lawsuits filed by the firm have sought at least $10 million for alleged sex discrimination against Atlantic City, N.J., casino cocktail waitresses and $600 million from the maker of an ephedra-based dietary supplement claimed to cause the death of a Baltimore Orioles pitcher.

Toback, the politician backing the action, describes himself in his biography on Nassau County's Web site as a "quality of life guy" who has focused on legislation promoting open space and recreational areas. He has also co-sponsored a law designed to protect teenagers from tanning beds and has planned this year to pursue a ban of toy guns in the area.

The legal action against Google comes as Congress and the Bush administration have been attempting to step up their crackdown on online sexual exploitation of children. The Justice Department has proposed a mandatory labeling system for sites bearing sexually explicit content and higher penalties for Internet service providers that don't report child pornography on their networks to the appropriate authorities.

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42 comments

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Frivolous
Another frivolous lawsuit. Google is only providing a service (searching). It's up to the use as to what kind of information is accessed.

Maybe google should be praised for giving the FBI a powerful tool to use to track down child pornographers.
Posted by boyd087 (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Frivolous...
I agree, totally frivolous given that Google has made tools available...but it will serve to keep Google on it's toes!
Posted by sgt1035 (27 comments )
Link Flag
Suit against Google for child pornography
I noticed in the statement made by the claimant the following: "Defendant refuses to spend a dime's worth of resources to block child pornography from reaching children."

So, does that mean the claimant want to be able to look for it anyway?
In other words should not the statement have read
"Defendant refuses to spend a dime's worth of resources to block child pornography from anyone."
Seems like do as I say, not what I do!
Posted by dvl3 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I noticed, too
I noticed the exact same thing: "Defendant refuses to spend a dime's worth of resources to block child pornography from reaching children."

Seems like it would be more important to block such content from reaching adults, since adults are the audience and creators of such content.

Also, I'm calling shenanigans. It is patently (not patentably) ridiculous to think that a legitimate public company of the size, scope and constant newsworthiness of Google would condone child pornography in order to themselves profit.
Posted by MrNougat (78 comments )
Link Flag
What an attention whore
Sounds like someone is trying to get some publicity for their re-election campaign, or maybe he's being investigated for child porn and is trying to set up a defense (Toback: "it's not my fault there is 350Gb of child porn on my computer, Google didn't block it").

IANAL but it would seem like Google might be able to file suit against this guy for defamation or slander or some shuch legal thing for making an accusation like this.
Posted by raitchison (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
2 parts of this
I think there are 2 parts of this;

1. Users being able to search for these type things and being able to filter content out.

Since they have SafeSearch essentially blocking these websites (as much as they can) unless the users chooses to turn them off, Google should not be held responsible.

(Some may say the fact that they are in their search engine is no good but then you get into censoring the internet and it's a bad direction to go down...)

2. Child Porn sites putting Google Ads on their site (which by Google's advertising process will theoretically link to related materials thereby making it "easy" for somebody to hop from child-porn site to child-porn site) and Google making money off of the advertisement clicks.

This is probably the more feasable of the two since they can link $$$ to specific sites and show they are "profiting" from them, but they have their content policy and report sites found to authorities. What else do they want Google to do?

Perhaps they can be a little more careful over who they allow to put their ads on? Or provide to take all of the money found to be acquired by these sites and have them donated to an agency or non-profit group whose aim is to stop child-pornography?

Those may not be such bad ideas, but that's something Google has to make a policy, not some lawsuite-throwing Politician!

Keep the net neutral and free!
Posted by dragonbite (452 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What an attention whore
Sounds like someone is trying to get some publicity for their re-election campaign, or maybe he's being investigated for child porn and is trying to set up a defense (Toback: "it's not my fault there is 350Gb of child porn on my computer, Google didn't block it").

IANAL but it would seem like Google might be able to file suit against this guy for defamation or slander or some shuch legal thing for making an accusation like this.
Posted by raitchison (103 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry for the dohble post
Got an error message the first time so I hit the back button and resubmit.
Posted by raitchison (103 comments )
Link Flag
Google has done no wrong
It is apparent that people who file lawsuits and sue people obviously do not do their research because this will obviously be thrown out.

I am sensing Evil Corp. itself(Microsoft) is behind this to distract Google so MS can keep working to get their search engine up to par.
Posted by acurism (14 comments )
Link Flag
Driven by Microsoft?
Just like the SCO lawsuits against Linux. MS is somewhere in the background.
Posted by ordaj (338 comments )
Reply Link Flag
huh ?
Why does any topic on google lead to some one b***ching about microsoft...
Posted by dataguy (1 comment )
Link Flag
Driven by Microsoft? Not a chance.
This should be totally transparent to anyone who's ever taken "Political Science 101".

This is nothing more than a politician trying to get attention in an election year, not caring who he steps on to get it.
Posted by anonymous_coward (4 comments )
Link Flag
Could be...
Like the Firefox security exploits that don't exist? I remember getting into an ill-advised p1551ng match over that one a few months back, lol.

Google does pursue a catch 'em and kill 'em approach to kiddy pron ppc ads, though some of these jerks slip through occasionally. I don't necessarily think M$ caused this flap, but they certainly have a lot to gain from publicising it.

Come to think of it, the way political lobbying works in this country, it is entirely conceivable that Microsoft rented themselves a politician...

But anyone who knows anything about search engines should rightfully dismiss these charges as frivolous crap.
Posted by Joust Williams (1 comment )
Link Flag
Here we go.
Its silly to make accusations like that without evidence that pertains to the case. At this point your just speculating. Even if you go by past experience this is more along the lines of what a MS competitor would do.
Posted by Akiba (220 comments )
Link Flag
Election year drivel
If this was a provable fact, then it wouldn't be the civil courts, it would be the criminal courts involved here.

Keep in mind that the standard necessary for convition in civil court is mouch lower than criminal court.

In civil court "reasonable doubt" doesn't apply.

That's one thing seriously wrong with the civil court system.

The other tipoff that this is bogus is that this is filed by a politician in an election year. This clown gets his name in the headlines as a "porn fighter" when he's nothing of the sort. Just a cheap sleazy opportunist.

If the guy had any real evidence to back up his claims, this would be all over the Senate/House floors.

My advice - vote for his opponent.

As for news.cbsi.com.cbsi.com.cbsi.com - shame on you for even reporting this nonsense and giving it any shred of credibility. This is nothing but tabloid politics at it's worst.
Posted by anonymous_coward (4 comments )
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No shame to News.Com
I'm actually glad it was reported using the style they did. The smoke screen is plain to many who read it, and the tone of the article made it plain that the politician wants to be taken seriously.

If the latter doesn't make it more obvious how ridiculous his claim is... then the quote about "keeping child porn from children" certainly will.

Oh how I wish I lived in his district so I could vote for his opponent. Certainly some of those who read this article do, and will be influenced the same as I have. See, this Cnat article does have its merits.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Link Flag
Suit Accuses Google...
Among other things, Jeffrey Toback's suit claims, "Defendant is willing to accede to the demands of the Chinese autocrats to block the search term 'democracy'".

Actually, a Google search for 'democracy' conducted in China returns 280,000,000 hits. (While searching for 'Jeffrey Toback' yields a paltry 352 hits. No, Mr. Toback, Google's not blocking your name in China either, you're just the opposite of famous, at least until this ridiculous law suit).

Get your facts straight, Mr. Toback. Voters of Nassau County, beware of your lying legislator.

Bill Thompson
Shanghai, China
Posted by billthompson53 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Suit Accuses Google
If the suit against Google moves forward, I'm going to consider filing a suit against the major networks. I would file on behalf of my grandkids.
Those silly networks keep advertising video games they can't buy and movies they can't watch. Next, I could go after the print media for the same reason. Perhaps after the collapse of the "FREE" market, law makers might consider putting a stop to stupid law suits such as this.
Posted by Okie Dave (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
No such luck...
The vast majority of lawmakers are also lawyers. Allowing lawsuits like this are job security.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Link Flag
are they doing this backwards?
People suing google, the govt trying to snoop on every bit of communication --- and these sites can pay to advertise and point straight to the source... why dont we simply create a standard for blocking certain IPs via any ISP owning fibre outside the country. It would be a hell of a lot easier than CALEA (even though a different purpose)
And of course if theyre in the US - just take them down!

Block the source!
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They don't get much dumber than this
Politicians this stupid and ignorant shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the Internet.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Reply Link Flag
All The Dumbacrats are showing their Nazi faces.
First that dumbacrat congress-ho from Colorado who wants to tap all ISP's. Now this.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Everything
The idea that of the two major parties, the Democrats most
resemble Nazis shows a poor understanding of history, National
Socialism, fascism, the Democratic Party, The Republican Party,
hell, pretty much everything.
Posted by DeusExMachina (516 comments )
Link Flag
English
English mothersmurfer? Do you speak it?

What?

Say what again! Say what again! I dare you! No, I double-dare
you, mothersmurfer! Say what again!

He's big!

Go on!

He's uses a Mac!

Does he look like a snitch?

What?

[shoots character]

I asked, "Does he look like a snitch?"

NO!

Then why are you trying to smurf him like one?

No, I'm not!

Yes, you are, Brett. And Mr. Wallace doesn't like to be smurfer by
anyone except Mrs. Wallace.



Hey, everyone. I thought I'd respond in kind to something that
made less sense that this.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Link Flag
A word from Ted Turner
A word from Ted Turner

"The United States has got some of the dumbest people in the world. I want you to know that we know that"

Oh well, Charles Darwin six billion plus, creative intelligent design minus infinity !

Someone, please send in a Brain Surgeon, so they can find his missing brain!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is bad -- and it's true.
I have a weblog (family friendly), and a hit counter which served up google ads.
(statcounter.com)

One day I posted an entry about a bad dream I had,
about my uncle trying to molest me as a kid.

Later that day, when I checked my hitcounter website,
I was shocked to see the google ad now read:

"bring purveyors of adult content to your adult website"

Why would google try to sell molesting kids as adult entertainment??!
Posted by 1111x9 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
You're half right
While your blog shouldn't have been hit by a porn ad, where did it
say that it was for child porn?

While I don't visit either kind, most "adult content" is not child
porn, although a lot of it does cater to sick minds (avoiding porn
ads of any sort is the best advantage of pop-up blockers, as they
keep trying to get around filters and other attempts to block them).
Posted by VidPro (60 comments )
Link Flag
child porn is wrong
personally i wouldnt give a dime for the views of ted turner,child porn is against the law the last time i checked.not just immoral buts illegal.
what next?
Posted by newcreation (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
no one will dispute that
It's not the issue at hand.
Posted by Bob Brinkman (556 comments )
Link Flag
Your point?
I somehow doubt Ted Turner was talking about child porn, or in
fact any kind of porn in that quote.

Look it up!
Posted by VidPro (60 comments )
Link Flag
ted turners saying we are the dumbest people
ted turner didnt talk about porn but hes so antiamerican in speech as well as antichristian.going around trying to say nothings wrong with north korea.
Posted by newcreation (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ted turners saying we are the dumbest people
ted turner didnt talk about porn but hes so antiamerican in speech as well as antichristian.going around trying to say nothings wrong with north korea.
Posted by newcreation (118 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes, let's stop the greed!
If there is no contract with performers, then you don't know for sure if the actor or actress is not underage, and with all the piracy going on which I would call slave labor as pirateers don't pay performers, they just profit and anyone who makes commission or draws attention to their business on this makes money too...then it's not just the pirateers that are at fault. Google can decide what goes in or not into their search engines, so therefore... information highway it may be... but there's some foulplay their and you know it's GREED. THEY'VE BEEN SAYING THEIR MAKING BIG BUCKS, SO THEY'VE ADMITTED TO THE EXACT POINT. ALL THESE PEOPLE THINK IT'S RIGHT, BECAUSE THEY MAKE MONEY OFF IT. SO DOES DRUGS, BUT IT'S ILLEGAL. THERE ARE SOME SERIOUS ILLEGALITIES, LABOR LAW VIOLATIONS OF SLAVE LABOR & EXPLOITATION. Stop allowing pirateers to profit! You're tormenting the performer's! You're violating the performer's rights! Slave labor without the right to choose not to be exploited by pirateers was supposed to end in the late 1800's. IT'S BACK! WHEN ARE YOU ALL GOING TO STOP ALLOWING THIS TYPE OF ILLEGAL EXPLOITATION TO CONTINUE? WAKE UP & DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! You say who cares, because it's porn? Well, all this pirated porn and child porn going ons and bestiality online that the entire world can see and THE ENTIRE WORLD KNOWS ABOUT NOW... reflects badly on THE ENTIRE UNITED STATE'S REPUTATION, so you may not care about porn... but what about the reputation of the US?
Posted by wroppots (3 comments )
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