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Google in Trouble for Suggesting Illegal Software 370

Posted by Zonk
from the we-should-start-a-google-lawsuits-topic dept.
JehCt writes "Google is being sued over the 'suggest' feature built into its latest toolbar. InfoWorld reports: 'ServersCheck, a small company that makes network monitoring software,' is complaining that, 'If ServersCheck is entered, Google generates suggested search terms such as serverscheck crack, serverscheck pro crack and serverscheck keygen which lead to pirated software.' In an apparent public relations blunder, Google claimed to have no way of filtering suggestions. However, Google can and does filter because the toolbar won't provide suggestions for keywords like 'porn'."
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Google in Trouble for Suggesting Illegal Software

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  • No leg to stand on? (Score:4, Informative)

    by crazyjeremy (857410) * on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:19PM (#15359423) Homepage Journal
    From a programming point of view, google doesn't really have a leg to stand on. If their code is smart enough to know a keyword "ServersCheck" is listed on webpages with the other keywords "ServersCheck crack", "ServersCheck keygen" or "ServersCheck pro crack" they should be able to put a filter in for it.

    The exhaustive results of google search is one thing, but making suggestions to illegal activity in the toolbar is taking it a bit over the line.
    "We don't have any problems with the fact that in Google you can find illegal copies of our software," Van Laere said. "There are people who will never buy the product at the end of the day.

    "But people that are looking for your company's name in good faith are then being suggested by Google to go and look for a crack. That is a complete different ballgame," Van Laere said.
    • I think Google should only serve ads from legitimate businesses.

      If an ad happens to offer free software, the target of the complaint shouldn't be Google but instead the business that is actually breaking the law. That's what makes sense to me.

      Google should be able to take the ads down and halt service of those ads if an inquiry is warranted.

      Otherwise, I've got a great business plan:
      1. Make a piece of shill software.
      2. Have your friend start a business that cracks it and offers it throu
      • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:30PM (#15359535) Homepage Journal
        I think Google should only serve ads from legitimate businesses.

        To clarify, this isn't Google's AdWords advertising that's under scrutiny. It's the 'suggest' feature of the new toolbar. Similar to what's found here [google.com].

        Personally I don't care for the feature. If I'm going to search for something I can type it in myself. If I make a mistake, Google has taught me that spelling correctly isn't as important as it used to be :)
        • by tha_mink (518151) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:01PM (#15359776)
          I think more to the point though is the one thing that people don't seem to understand about Google. They are a SEARCH engine. They don't produce the content, only make it easier to find. They shouldn't be held responsible for other peoples' criminal acts. You can learn how to make a bomb through Google as well, and you should be able to. That is one of the side effects of having the entire span of human knowledge at your fingertips. I just don't understand why companies, individuals and interest groups keep going after the messenger.
          • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:18PM (#15359937)
            This borders on editorializing. I tried out the suggest feature, and typed in Office 2003. As I was typing it listed 10 or so "more complete" search terms. By the time I got to "Offi" it had numerous suggestions for cracks, warez, and keygens. These aren't sites, these are search terms.

            I guess this means a lot of people search for these things. But it's probably fair to complain about Google actually suggesting these search terms.

            I personally disagree with this complaint, but I understand it.

            • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @06:08PM (#15361386) Homepage Journal
              I guess this means a lot of people search for these things. But it's probably fair to complain about Google actually suggesting these search terms.

              What's wrong with suggesting those search terms? First of all they are search terms. Searching for them isn't illegal. Getting pirated copies is. Second, some of those have dual meanings that are hard to filter. Cracks could relate to things that are not software related, how would the software know the difference? Finally, not every one of those are necessarily illegitimate. Cracks have their legitimate uses. Every gamer I know cracks their single player games that they paid for, so that they don't have to keep the cd in the drive when playing. People with legitimate copies of windows crack them so they don't have to go through the activation process every time they format / reinstall.

              DMCA, yeah, yeah...That law needs to be rescinded.

            • by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @06:50PM (#15361631)
              But it's probably fair to complain about Google actually suggesting these search terms.


              Google Suggest is a brand name for a search engine running against a database of collected popular combinations of search terms. It is no more an set of actual suggestions from Google as the term "suggestion" is used in casual conversation than Microsoft Office is an actual "office", or Microsoft Sam and Mary are actual little people living inside your computer that talk to you, or than Mozilla Firefox is a flambeed mammal.

          • by iamcadaver (104579) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:21PM (#15359964)
            My apologies, I modded your comment -1 redundant when I meant to mod it up insightful.

            At least posting this comment will zero out the effect (no means to undo the mod)
          • >I just don't understand why companies, individuals and interest groups keep going after the messenger.

            I know this is probably too obvious, but because the messenger has billlyuns and billllyuns of dollars and the people that are actually doing something illegal are A: hard to catch and B: have (by design, or because they're the type of people who find it difficult to get a legitimate job) few available assets.

      • by drsquare (530038) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:41PM (#15359621)
        I think Google should only serve ads from legitimate businesses.

        What will they say to the shareholders when profits go down 80%?
    • by rizzo420 (136707) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:26PM (#15359492) Homepage Journal
      that sounds like the politically correct way to say "i want to censor google". if people looking for their product in good faith are suggested search terms that allude to a crack, they most likely aren't going to try those search terms. if they're given results for a pirated version only, then there's an issue.

      this guy sounds like he's taking it a little overboard. but you are correct, google made a mistake saying they couldn't filter them out when they do regularly filter results anyways (china's google for instance?)
      • ...google made a mistake saying they couldn't filter them out when they do regularly filter results anyways (china's google for instance?)...

        One of the reasons that Google can't effectively filter in the States is that in English (and, I assume, most other languages), one word can have multiple meanings. There are many reasons that the word "crack" (or some such) and the name of a piece of software can legitimately be on the same page. They don't even have to be related -- multiple entries on the same pag
        • by Petrushka (815171) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @09:45PM (#15362505)

          Another point here is that Google offers an international service. Even if some judge does rule that Google has to, for example, keep program searches from turning up toolbar results for the cracks to those programs, this ruling would only be in effect in the US.

          This is, I am afraid, incorrect. Google is a US company, and censors according to the requirements of US law everywhere (though in some countries it censors under local laws too, as in the cases of China, France, and Germany). Google.cn, google.de, google.fr, google.co.nz, etc etc, all censor the same results that get censored in the US, complete with the standard DMCA notice, even though the DMCA is not in effect in any of those countries. I contacted Google about this when I noticed it, and they pretty quickly confirmed that this is indeed the case.

    • No one is going to believe that technical restrictions shit, especially not from Google. I mean, they didn't believe it from Napster (they were lying, too) and they're definitely not going to take that line from Google, which is widely considered to be a collection of some of the smartest people in technology.

      • by hublan (197388) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @04:20PM (#15360446) Homepage
        No one is going to believe that technical restrictions shit, especially not from Google.

        From the first hit [sharewareconnection.com] using the search terms "serverscheck crack":


        Shareware Connection periodically updates pricing and software information from third-party sources, so some information may be slightly out-of-date. You should confirm all information before relying on it. Software piracy is theft, Using crack, password, serial numbers, registration codes, key generators (keygens), warez is illegal and prevent future software development.

        How would you go about filtering this site? Curious.

    • by TommyBlack (899306) <webmasterNO@SPAMthomblake.com> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:27PM (#15359511) Homepage
      But if you filter words like "crack" and "keygen", you'd basically have to do that manually by making special rules for those sorts of things. But then why wouldn't folks just start using different words?

      And what about if those words were being used for legitimate purposes? (Admittedly, I can't think of any legitimate reason most people would do so)

      At any rate, I think Google is on the right side trying to remain value-neutral with respect to content as much as possible. They have to respond to pressure on things like pornography sometimes, but if the system is built upon the way people are actually using it, the less they mess with their system the better it should be.
      • by BondGamer (724662) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:41PM (#15359629) Journal
        The big problem here is the program is called Google Suggest. So basically, Google is suggesting that people should search for cracks, keygens, and other things which hurt the business of said product. Google is in no way being neutral when it "suggests" search terms.

        If this gains any kind of traction, it will probably lead to the demise of the suggest program. All someone has to do is preform a few actions (create a product, website, preform searches, etc.) and then they can sue Google.
        • by modecx (130548)
          It's not like google is suggesting that you go an get a crack for your software, it's suggesting that it might a word you're looking for, based on what other people search for.

          It's exactly like page-rank. If you go searching for "Santorum" because you're looking for Senator Rick Santorum's personal website, you're not going to find it as the first result, because more pages link to spreadingsantorum.com than they do linking to the senator's site... But instead of the content of the web dictating what come
      • by aaronl (43811) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:45PM (#15359659) Homepage
        I can think of reasons: if you make software that attempts to prevent cracking or simple key generation, you probably will use the words "crack" and "keygen" in your literature, if you attempt to break software to verify level of protection, etc. If Google were to put such a filter in place, they now have to examine each search result, and attempt to determine if the instance is talking about breaking software, protecting software, or illegally using software.

        They very likely *can't* do that with the product they have today. It is a technically possible solution that Google could impliment, but not one that they are capable of today.

        In regards to the pornography, Google probably determined that porn showed up far too often when searching for something unrelated. They likely hardcoded the application to avoid displaying those hits.
        • by jcorno (889560) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @04:03PM (#15360294)
          I think most people misunderstood Google's statement, which I'm guessing the Serverspro legal team specifically intended. Google claims the results can't be filtered. The lawyers say that's not true, because they can filter the search terms. The two are obviously different. Unless I completely misread it, Google was saying that you won't get suggestions if you search for "porn," not that you won't get any suggestions that contain the word porn. Filtering indivual search terms would be a lot less complicated than filtering the millions of indexed web pages.
      • And what about if those words were being used for legitimate purposes? (Admittedly, I can't think of any legitimate reason most people would do so)
        I can: wanting to get no-cd cracks so as to be able to play all your computer games on your laptop without having to lug 50 CDs around.

        The way I see it, the only reasonable solution for Google is to have no special cases at all.
        • by grnbrg (140964) <slashdot@NospaM.grnbrg.org> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:07PM (#15359818)
          I can: wanting to get no-cd cracks so as to be able to play all your computer games on your laptop without having to lug 50 CDs around.

          Which is not a legitimate use.

          Not in the same category as using a no-cd crack to play a warez copy of a game, I'll admit. But I bet the EULA and/or license for the game forbids you from using such software.

          A crack or a keygen may make it much easier for you to run software that you are entitled to use, and using one in such a situation might not (and probably will not) result in litigation, but that does not mean it's a legitimate use.

          grnbrg.

          • Fuck that. Legitimacy is determined by whether it's ethical and moral, not whether it's legal!
          • by Novus (182265)
            Actually, cracking a program you've acquired legally for personal use is (as far as I can tell by reading the copyright law [finlex.fi], paragraph 25 j) explicitly permitted by law in Finland, and I've never heard of a EULA sticking in court (especially if the hypothetical cat or whatever clicks "I accept" in the installer instead of the user); clicking a button in a program you've already paid for in order to use it in response to an illegible tirade in a foreign language is hardly a binding contract. I believe severa
      • This brings up the question of syntax vs. semantics. Right now, Google could filter based on syntax, but what if the Kiddiez start getting smart about things and instead of labelling the hacked versions "crack" or "keygen" or "warez", they labelled it "orange juice" or "pinto" or "football" -- words that have no semantic relation to the issues at hand here. Sure, Google could get smart too and start filtering those, but the list of unrelated words or phrases could almost be limitless -- moreso if foreign
      • by bahwi (43111)
        "And what about if those words were being used for legitimate purposes?"

        There are plenty of legitimate uses, but, it's a minor convenience, so it shouldn't be a big deal. It's not like you can't search for those words, it just won't suggest them.
    • If their code is smart enough to know a keyword "ServersCheck" is listed on webpages with the other keywords "ServersCheck crack", "ServersCheck keygen" or "ServersCheck pro crack" they should be able to put a filter in for it.

      Technically, yes. They should be able to.

      From a business standpoint, I don't see why Google should be compelled to modify their code for the benefit of ServersCheck or any other party who would complain about the behavior of the tool.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:44PM (#15359648)
      Maybe Google should just filter out "ServersCheck".
    • by slizz (822222)
      Google technically could put a filter in. However, that starts a terrible precedent. Although pages with the word 'crack'after a piece software in the title could (and probably will) be illegal, what if they are simply information about cracks, for example about cracks' illegality? Should google not be able to link to pages with information about illegal activity? Should they censor out the words "murder" or "theft"?
      • These guys are asking for a filter on the Suggest feature (where google provides a drop-down list of related search terms), like is already done for some pornography related terminology. They are not asking for google to filter out the word "crack" from search results, just like you can still go to google and type in "hot naked donkey porn" and get results. This is not about google linking to those pages. Here, try it out: http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en [google.com].
      • Heck, what if I'm searching for a company to repair my cracked foundation. When I tpye in "foundation", it may very well make sense for this feature to suggest "foundation crack" as search terms.
    • by Mercano (826132) <mercano@gmaiTOKYOl.com minus city> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:51PM (#15359706)

      I can see how this can be difficult. All Google is doing is querrying it's databases for the most frequent search terms that match ServersCheck*. Its kind of hard to classify in what contexts should certain phrases not be suggested. I mean, if I started typing "G4 Cube", it might be perfectly legitimate for google to suggest "G4 Cube Cracks", not because I want to search for craked software for a G4 Cube but because the cases for this machine were known to develop cracks. The word has many meanings, and if you can figure out a way to programatically determine whats ment by a short phrase worth of context, then it has alot more practicall uses then filtering Google.

      Keygen, I could see just skipping over for suggestions. Not as many legitimate uses. Of course, that starts down a very slippery slope, especially when you think of things like Google.cn

  • They start censoring individual keywords there is going to be no quality control, since obviously they can't work with every keyword that entered on google or in the toolbar.

    If there is an automated way, what is there to prove that a competitor is not doing it?
  • Does that mean... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluemeep (669505) <bluemeep@gGINSBERGmail.com minus poet> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:21PM (#15359439) Homepage
    ...that more people are interested in pirated copies of their software than their actual brand? I'm far from an expert at the workings of search engine toolbars (hate 'em), but doesn't that particular function bring up the most popular searches for that keyword?
    • by hackstraw (262471) * on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:31PM (#15359545)
      doesn't that particular function bring up the most popular searches for that keyword?

      That is what the article seems to imply, and knowing how Google does things, I would bet money on it.

      So, in other words they are being sued for an algorithm that is based on input from people based on their behavior, so of course Google is to blame (bigger pockets and a name than random anonymous joe smoe that actually did the searching).

      The thing that sucks is because the 70-80 year old judge that probably cannot do anything besides use a push button telephone is actually going to ponder this for more than the 20 seconds it takes a technology minded person to ponder it.

      Its just an algorithm based on user input. Much like searching for miserable failure [google.com]. Google may or may not collectively agree with the result of such search, but they did not dope their search database with the information. It just happened. Shit happens.

    • From the Google Suggest FAQ linked to below: For example, Google Suggest uses data about the overall popularity of various searches to help rank the refinements it offers. From this, it sounds like 'serverscheck crack' is the second highest search term with 'serverscheck professional' coming in third.
      • Re:Does that mean... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Firehed (942385)
        Shouldn't thins tell the company in question that they're charging too much for their software, rather than suing Google is easy money? If software is good and cheap, I buy it. If it's overpriced (at least given how I'll use it, such as Photoshop), I look for alternative operating methods.

        If a company is losing lots of money to piracy, that means most of the time that they're charging too much - high school economics has told me more than enough to figure out that charging less means more sales, and the

        • by ktakki (64573) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @05:53PM (#15361279) Homepage Journal
          First of all, I take it from the name "ServersCheck" that this piece of software is a remote administration tool. Since very few competent admins would rely on a cracked piece of software to monitor their equipment, it's got to be warez kiddies doing the cracking (and probably not even using the software). You know, 0-day oneupsmanship.

          Now, do you see the inherent flaw in letting warez kiddies dictate the pricing structure of your product?

          Photoshop must be the most widely cracked software out there, second only to Windows XP (just a guess). It's not terribly expensive - $700 or so, right? - and there are both low-cost and free alternatives (Photoshop Elements, the Gimp, etc.). Does that stop anyone from cracking Photoshop CS? Nope.

          Supply and demand dictate the price of your product. ServersCheck and Photoshop CS are not high-demand mass-market consumer products. They're priced accordingly. And since they're used by professionals, there's a return on the investment. Theoretically, ServersCheck will maximize your uptime. My legit copy of Photoshop CS has allowed me to generate thousands of dollars of income for my company (not that I couldn't have done that with the Gimp, but I've been using Photoshop since version 2.51 and I'm pretty set in my ways).

          While supply and demand controls pricing, you hope that your product sells enough to recoup your investment in development, distribution, and marketing, along with covering your recurring expenses and perhaps a bit of profit on top of that. If not, you cut expenses. Adobe is a publicly traded company; while cutting the price of Photoshop CS2 might push a few more units out the door, that would come at the expense of profits and perhaps result in a net loss. Cue the shareholder revolt in 3...2...1...

          Finally, the whole warez culture is not about being able to use software that you can't afford. It's all about hoarding, the digital equivalent of those ladies who live with 50 cats. It's irrational. Why you would want to hitch the pricing of your product to that sort of thing is even crazier.

          k.
          • I suppose that's true with Photoshop and this ServersCheck thing, but XP being one of if not the most widely-used and widely-pirated software available, my concept could apply well. If XP had a pricing scheme of, for instance, $100 for your first copy, $25 per additional license, or $200 for an "unlimited" home, I wouldn't have that huge of a problem paying. But $150 for an OEM copy of software that's swiss-cheese security and more attacked than [insert bad analogy here] seems a but much, especially with
  • Too Bad! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gasmonso (929871) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:22PM (#15359450) Homepage

    Telling Google to filter those selections is rediculous! If the company doesn't like people supplying cracks/serials then go after the offender... not Google just because they no they exist. I'm tired of all this crap. Pretty soon the MPAA and RIAA will go after Google because they index illegal mp3 and movies. What the hell is wrong with this world?

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • the act is also manifestly stupid. Google will just say "ok, we will take off all reference to your company from our search engine forever". Now you have a small company who no one who uses google will be able to find. It makes no sense. I know they will get a little bit of (bad) publicity because of this, but when this ends no one will ever know about them again.
    • Looks like they did it already. I bet it wasn't even hard, they probably just added a row or two to a configuration db table someplace. There's nothing about cracks or serials anywhere in the first page of results.
    • Telling Google to filter those selections is rediculous! If the company doesn't like people supplying cracks/serials then go after the offender... not Google just because they no they exist. I'm tired of all this crap. Pretty soon the MPAA and RIAA will go after Google because they index illegal mp3 and movies. What the hell is wrong with this world?

      I'll tell you what's wrong... Thieves steal, then the crowds side with the thieves. That, and people can't spell ridiculous.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:23PM (#15359452) Homepage Journal
    Is that anyone can sue anybody for anything, even if it's later:

    a. tossed out of court;
    b. found totally without cause; or
    c. settled because the group/person being sued doesn't have enough legal firepower or deep pockets to fight the case.

    I predict that Google, who have just a teeny bit of money, isn't too worried about this one.

    Now, if it were say a Linux distro being sued by say a Unix license owner who claimed they had stolen their code, that's another animal, but that's because most distros don't have deep pockets or lawyers to throw on fires for no good reason.
    • They are rare in the wild, those blue gorilla's. Well not rare exactly. Rare for anyone to report on them because they tend to sit on people that annoy them. And when a 800 pound gorrila sits on you, you stay sat on.

      But yes this is another story of sue happy america. Got to love the US of A. Especially the fact that it is an ocean away.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why would anyone even use such a toolbar?
  • by DaHat (247651) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:24PM (#15359473) Homepage
    Back in the 2600 case over the DeCSS source code the courts said that it was effectively illegal to link to something illegal.

    Since then I've been wondering when the major search engines were going to be sued because they link to illegal content such as child porn and pirated software.

    It'll be interesting to see how this pans out and if Google does lose you can surly expect to see others joining in against them and others due to the precedent it sets.
    • Back in the 2600 case over the DeCSS source code the courts said that it was effectively illegal to link to something illegal.

      That's too broad of an interpretation, I believe. The specific law, as I recall, involved made it illegal to distribute certain kinds of information (which they should have found unconstitutional, but that's another problem), and they found that linking to the information violated that law. I'm pretty sure the court in that case did not articulate a general rule that it is categor

    • 2600 lost because they were not a noble defendant.

      I think that the same lawsuit with a defendant of higher moral character would have had a different result (eg., Google).

      In some cases, the judge can't seem to look at the law instead of the defendant. I think 2600 was one of those cases. The judge saw scary hackers and seem to react "they must be stopped". It was a stupid ruling from a stupid judge. Don't expect that to slow Google down one bit.
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:24PM (#15359476) Homepage
    ...when Google just brought to their attention that certain websites were pirating their software and offered to list each of those sites for them?
    • Because there is no $ in 31337.
    • by XXIstCenturyBoy (617054) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:04PM (#15359800)
      Not sure why the parent is modded as funny, because its more insightful than funny. Did that company sued the ISP or the maintainer of the sites? Nope. They went were the money is.

      Thats like charging someone with a crime because he knows where the neighborhood crackhouse is.
    • Because they realize that they cannot stop pirating. Why would you even suggest they could? The RIAA cannot stop pirating, and it has a lot more money than a little software developer.

      The company representative even says this. He doesn't care so much that search results link to warez and crack sites, when you search for the terms "warez" and "cracks" along with the company name.

      He's concerned that legitimate customers, who just want to find the website, are being encouraged to search for warez and cracks
  • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:24PM (#15359477)
    I don't like installing toolbars, but you can dink around with the suggest feature here [google.com]
  • From the Google Suggest FAQ, "Google Suggest uses data about the overall popularity of various searches to help rank the refinements it offers." Perhaps they have turned off suggestions for a few obvious terms (porn, etc), but I doubt they are actually filtering the searches used to rank the refinements - this would be quite difficult to do in general. Expecting google to weed through all of the searches that have been made in order to find what some might consider to be illegal would be absurd.
    • I think you make an excellent point. To refine a bit:

      It is very likely that Google COULD implement some special case filtering, but as you point out, it could cost a lot of time and resources. I think they are actually concerned that caving in would set a precident that would just snowball.

      At the same time, Google has proved time and again that they are very capable of scaling their applications, so I bet they could work out something... it's just a hell of a lot easier to not get the ball moving in that di
  • They're right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr. Evil (3501) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:29PM (#15359531)
    They should stop filtering on the word "porn"
    • KATE MONSTER
      The internet is really really great.

      TREKKIE MONSTER
      For porn!

      KATE MONSTER
      I got a fast connection so I didn't have to wait.

      TREKKIE MONSTER
      For porn!

      KATE MONSTER
      There's always some new site.

      TREKKIE MONSTER
      For porn!

      KATE MONSTER
      I browse all day and night.

      TREKKIE MONSTER
      For porn!

      KATE MONSTER
      It's like I'm surfing at the speed of light.

      TREKKIE MONSTER
      For porn!

      KATE MONSTER
      (spoken)
      Trekkie!

      TREKKIE MONSTER
      (sung)
      The internet is for porn! The internet is for porn!
      Why do you think the net was born?
      Porn! Porn! P
  • Can they filter? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ssummer (533461)
    I think the original poster might be wrong about Google's ability to filter. There's a difference blocking suggestions for the keyword "porn" and blocking only the "illegal" suggestions for "ServersCheck". Going by the logic in the post, Google could probably only easily block *all* sugggestions for "ServersCheck", not just the illegal ones. I'm pretty sure the software company wouldn't like that option...
    • Keygen is something else entirely, but for example, should Google be filtering results because you searched:

      "ServersCheck Crack Me Up"

      I know it's silly, but it's a legitimate search with serverscheck that has the word crack in it. So now I could not see a site that, say, legally criticized the ServersCheck company?

      I can see why "keygen" is tough, because I can't think of many legitimate uses for either that, or warez or something... but really, while they may HAVE the tech to monitor and filter, tha
  • by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:36PM (#15359587)
    Van Laere said he was told by Google that Web sites with illegal content would be removed from their index, but that it couldn't tweak the Suggest feature. So Van Laere filed suit, an action he said is an expensive option for a small company against a behemoth such as Google.

    He's trying to get Google to change the Suggest results. Van Laere uses Google's tool for analyzing Web traffic and found that about 93 percent of ServerCheck's customers come to their Web site by way of the popular search engine.

    "We don't have any problems with the fact that in Google you can find illegal copies of our software," Van Laere said. "There are people who will never buy the product at the end of the day.

    So they really weren't harmed, they just want some google cash! I noticed they refiled the suit. Did the first one get thrown out? Why is litigation always the first thing companies do? It seems they can't try just working out their differences by communication. If 93 percent of your customers are coming by way of google, do they really want to have the term servercheck blocked? They can block porn because it's an input term, not an output suggestion. See the difference?

  • dataset too large to proccess. Why always assume malice? :)
  • faq 404 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coaxeus (911103) *
    Interesting, they took the FAQ offline http://labs.google.com/intl/en/suggestfaq.html [google.com] Also - there are plenty of adult things you can bring up in suggest, just very very basic words like "porn" are blocked.
  • With your software's name are "crack" and "keygen", you *might* need to take a good long look at your licensing and pricing model.
  • Seems Fair (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ikejam (821818)
    What ServersCheck is asking Googles is to stop suggesting that people search for Serverscheck crack, when they were possibly trying to just search for ServersCheck.

    Now that I've stated teh obvious, this seems a perfectly fair thing to ask, both legally and ethically, even considering free speech, and the fact that the present model is ultimately based on the actual results/user request - which is a really nice way incidentally.

    Google Suggest, even if GOOG would probably want to potray it as more of a user t
    • What ServersCheck is asking Googles is to stop suggesting that people search for Serverscheck crack, when they were possibly trying to just search for ServersCheck.

      The specific terms are irrelevant. ServerCheck is asking Google to make an exception to their algorithm, which says most people who entered "ServersCheck" were looking for a link to a product called "ServersCheck Crack." So what if most people entering "Word" are looking for a link to "MS Word" according to their algorithm? Would it be fair f

  • Common Carrier (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robpoe (578975) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:40PM (#15359619)
    Wouldn't Google still be considered a common carrier? They didn't produce the stuff, why would they filter it.

    IIRC .. if a common carrier started to filter out results that they thought were unfavorable, then they'd have to filter ALL illegal content, because then they become a delivery source.

    So why is Google filtering the stuff?

    Or would they not be common carrier?
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:41PM (#15359627) Homepage
    The courts need to sort this type of stuff out before it gets out of hand. The fundamental issue is that computer-generated results of any kind cannot be construed as doing something illegal.

    • If Excel says my Church's bank account balance is "69" I can't sue Microsoft for indecency.
    • If Yahoo suggests "Slashdot Sucks" when I type "Slashdot" OSDN can't sue for slander.
    • If a fractal generator produces a picture of your famous painting, you can't sue for copyright violations.
    • If you sell your biography on Amazon and it says "people who bought this book also bought: 'Famous Idiots'" you can't sue Amazon for... well... anthing.
    • If a thousand simulated monkeys at a thousand virtual keyboards produce the plotline to a video game movie, Uwe Boll [slashdot.org] can't sue.

    Aggregated information is just that: information. It is not owned or copyrighted by anyone. The judge should simply rule that Google is not the one to sue, because they do not own the fact that 1000 people searched for this result.

  • No worries. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:43PM (#15359642) Homepage Journal
    If they do manage to outlaw bringing up search results with words like "crack," won't the cracker scene just come up with some other lingo? I could write something that does the same thing and call it a "Floyd" instead of a "crack," and if that catches on you'll get just as many illicit search results for "ServersCheck Floyd." And then what, will they sue over searches for "Floyd?"
  • Google generates suggested search terms such as serverscheck crack, serverscheck pro crack and serverscheck keygen which lead to pirated software

    Can anyone get to any "pirated software"? All I find are links to crack programs or keygens, which is good since it's what I searched for. Now then, are cracks & keygens illegal? In the US, does the DMCA make the answer yes? Fair enough if so, but should Google withdraw the data and apply the US law across the world? Of course this is only one step away from

  • Common problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rgb465 (325668) <.moc.bbthgisni. .ta. .kbg.> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:53PM (#15359722) Homepage
    This "problem" is not limited to ServersCheck. A Google 'Suggest' search for just about any popular software package will turn up entries that include the words "crack", "serial" or "keygen".

    Just for kicks I tried the following queries:

    Photoshop
    Paintshop
    Autocad 2005
    3d Studio Max
    Fruity Loops
    Windows 2000 Pro
    Office 2003
    Soundforge

    *All* of them resulted in illicit entries appearing in the suggestions box.
  • by moochfish (822730) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @02:53PM (#15359723)
    You don't see France suing over this [google.com]!
  • by nubnub (795694)
    I don't understand why this would be illegal. Immoral maybe, and a definite bug, but illegal? Google could just as easily dump serverscheck out of its index. There's nothing illegal about that. Why do they legally have to return results favorable to serverscheck?
  • We know that Spammer uses huge botnets of sometimes 100K machines in it. Also you can "rent" some botnet for illegal activity.

    So it would be theorically possible that one of your concurrent launches a big "google suggest defacement attack" by doing tons of searches in google that leads google to suggest, for example, "sucks" or "morons" when your company names is entered ?

    Well I suppose any 'feedback' technology can be abused those days and it is only a question of who is willing to pay more than what is po
  • With great power ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nomego (869651)
    .. comes great responsibility!
  • Not a US Case (Score:3, Informative)

    by DeepCerulean (741098) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:14PM (#15359887)
    for those of you who didn't RTFA, the suit was filed in Belgium. Unless Bush has invaded them recently, I'm pretty sure US law doesn't apply there...

    I must say though, if we're going to get serious about monitoring the content on the internet (not saying we should...); this needs to be handled as international law because it's just retarded to do this on a country by country basis...
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @03:38PM (#15360112) Homepage
    The 2600 decision was unconstitutional on the face of it. The first amendment lets a newspaper tell citizens where a red light district is without fear of being hauled up on pandering charges. The last 25 years have seen our federal courts loaded with pro-business, defacto right wing judges who have markedly ruled against the consumer and for more invasive corporate power.

    Google shouldn't have to filter a damned thing.

    Software to crack your own property is morally proper, no matter what laws the rich bastards have purchased. The "license to use, but you don't own this disk or the software" idea is manure. You buy it, you own it. That's how physical transactions work. An author of a book doesn't get to tell you how to read, store, or dispose of the book after you purchase it. Well, right now he can't. Wait a couple of years.

    This is how people lose faith in the law. Make enough stupid, vicious laws to make powerful people happy, and soon no one respects the law, since they KNOW it's a scam to make powerful wealthy people happy.

    I'm starting to see the end of the internet as we've known it. It's turning into corporate-controlled 21st century TV, complete with vice squads and corporate private cops busting people.

    Time to start building encrypted darknet transmission systems, kids. The dark times are starting.
  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @04:04PM (#15360308) Homepage

    This company's going to get shot down if they face Google in court. Their example of filtering is the opposite of what they're complaining about. They give an example of Google not offering suggestions for "sex", which means Google is filtering the input keywords. They then complain that Google doesn't exclude "servercheck keygen" from the result set for "servercheck", which would involve filtering the output set. Google's response will be, quite properly, "Yes, we can look at keywords and not offer any suggestions for a certain set of keywords. But that's not what you're asking. You're asking for us to filter the set of suggestions returned for potentially any set of keywords and remove certain suggestions but not others. And what criteria do we use to decide what's legitimate? "keygen" is entirely legitimate as a keyword for software to let authors generate license keys to issue to buyers of their own software, after all.".

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @04:05PM (#15360314)
    Once Google admits to its ability to filter its Suggest feature, it will become a never ending battle about what one company or group wants removed just to benefit them -- and never the searcher who now receives less information than before. Just imagine:

    Scientology not wanting any critic sites suggested.

    RIAA not wanting any alternative music/non-big 4 music sites suggested.

    It would never end, and we end users are all poorer when censorship happens.

    And don't think for a moment this company won't ask to have other download sites removed the moment it is proved it's possible. Google's defence has to be that it's not possible in an automated system.

    Lastly, filter out crack and it will simply become cr@ck. You get the idea.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @04:13PM (#15360379) Journal
    In an apparent public relations blunder, Google claimed to have no way of filtering suggestions. However, Google can and does filter because the toolbar won't provide suggestions for keywords like 'porn'."


    Here we have a classic example of not understanding how things work. It is relatively easy to prevent searches for specific items such as "porn", "pussy", etc. One simply provides a list of terms in the program that result in no search being performed. Here is some psuedo-code.

    @banned_words="porn","pussy","dick";
    foreach word in @banned_words {
        if ( @search_terms=~m/$word/ ) {
                $naughty=1;
                  break;
          }
    }
    return 1 if ($naughty);
    do_search(@search_terms);


    As one can see, it is a very simple operation which, as other have pointed out, is easily circumvented.

    Filtering the results is a much trickier proposition because there is context involved.
    The same code applied to results would prevent results containing "pussy cat" from appearing in a search for "cat". It would also prevent any referrence to someone named "Dick" from appearing in, say, a search of Vice Presidents or actors.

    In the case of the results listed ("serverscheck crack", "serverscheck pro crack", and "serverscheck keygen")trying to filter "crack" and or keygen would result in a large number of valid sights being block for OTHER searches. Imagine the results from search on ssh-keygen if one filters "keygen" out of the results.
  • by mdomb529 (975761) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @05:14PM (#15360973)
    Google can just filter all hits that involve the term "ServersCheck."
  • by GaryPatterson (852699) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:10PM (#15362935)
    Company X: "We don't want our product mentioned in the same search results as 'cracks'! "
    Nation X: "We don't want our nation mentioned in the same search results as 'democracy'! "
    Religion X: "We don't want our religion mentioned in the same search results as 'evolution'! "

    To paraphrase that great thinker, Yoda, "Once you start down the path of filtering, forever will it dominate your destiny."

    Or was it "Start down path the filtering of once you, destiny dominate it forever your will." Something like that. But then he said a lot of stupid stuff when he was drunk.
  • by Sj0 (472011) on Friday May 19, 2006 @10:41AM (#15365443) Homepage Journal
    Google isn't a public service. When they say they "Can't filter", it's likely because it sends them down a slippery slope towards being unable to run a search engine. Ok, let's get rid of thte cracks. Now the warez. Now all the strange misspellings of those two. Well Jesus, thare are a billion pages on Google. To go through each one to make sure it's not illegal somehow would require trolling the entire internet.

    In ths case, we're not talking about filtering individual web pages but suggested search terms. Sure, they could filter those too, technologically. However, we get the same problem; It's going to mean some poor sap going through each search term and trying find the offensive or illegal ones. They could try just filtering some terms, but then you get things like this, with them being called hypocrites.

    In the end, between the additional logistics required to filter every time someone complains and the additional drain on computer resources to do so, it's a more acceptable business decision to get the whiney people to go away than to try to appease them.

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