Search and Undesirable Information

by Ruud Hein October 3rd, 2008 

Now, although Search can't be held directly responsible for the material it indexes, for the material it gives easy access to, as any parent and law enforcement officer knows, it certainly makes finding and accessing undesirable information a lot easier.

In the real world (for geeks define:real world) finding undesirable information can be a lot harder than you would think.

From how to make a bomb (includes easy links to related searches like how to make a bomb with household items and home made bombs) to how to commit suicide (user-friendly links to the related searches painless ways to commit suicide and methods of suicide) and from what happened in Kashgar China to US military equipment in Iraq, some questions, depending on where and when they are asked by whom, can raise red flags.

Some questions you, parents, or government organizations would rather not see so easily answered.

It's true that it's the anonymous, large-scale nature of the World Wide Web that makes the dissemination of this information terribly simple. But it's search, and only search, that makes it useful, findable, accessible.

Without Search you'd find yourself at the equivalent of walking into a bar, asking for an illegal passport, some cocaine and an illegal gun: it doesn't work that way.

Without Search you'd need someone who knows someone who knows someone. And depending on the what and the someone's, you need credibility, need to be able to be trusted, before you're introduced and moved on towards the next stage.

As media companies are starting to look towards ISP's to filter illegal file sharing, so law enforcement agencies will increasingly look to Search: the door through which easy access can be gained can be easily closed, allowing only certain information in and through, condemning the rest to obscurity and through obscurity to exposure by forcing those interested out into the open.

In essence, for any party concerned, be it a parent, an employer or the law, there is no need to monitor websites visited, emails sent, instant messages made; one only needs to monitor Search to follow and understand the direction and development of someone's interests.

Just Between You & Me

I really wanted to go with the librarian looking over her glasses but in the end thought the cartoon cover made available by swearinglibrarian would distract some readers a bit less :) The I Heart Dewey Decimal System tattoo would have been great too, don't you think?

ThisParticularGreg is responsible for the great Gangs of Suburbia photo. Just what I needed!

This was my mug and oddly enough I've had the visual pleasure of looking at a can of E.D. Smith Pure Pumpkin. I think I'm going to make cream of pumpkin soup with it.

I listened to the indescribable good Joe Pass (man knows guitar), Joe Cocker and earlier on the ever charming Frank Sinatra.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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16 Responses to “Search and Undesirable Information”

  1. Utah SEO says:

    Search provides power that people take for granted or often overlook. Power used in the wrong way can have some negative outcomes. I just hope big brother doesn't try to filter this power that people actually have though.

  2. Fascinating article! You're absolutely right that Search is the key to online information. I think that's why people get so scared about Google's privacy practices. They're paranoid someone is going to be monitoring their searching.

  3. That's why it's suggested that kids not be given an unsupervised location to surf the web. As in all things today, we need to monitor and protect our kids.

  4. kouji says:

    hopefully, search won't head in this direction anytime soon. i'm not a big fan of the idea of regulation in this regard.

  5. SoLinkable says:

    I really dont think the answer is to start blocking websites… censorship is never the right answer.

  6. The fun of going to the library like you suggest has disappeared! Just a click away from all that information. In other senses, an overload?

  7. There are a lot more that can be done with the power of search. The same applies to everything on the planet, many things can be used for a good purpose as well as a dangerous purpose. Educating the mass is the solution.
    Rif Chia

  8. Michael D says:

    I like the DC comic cover Ruud and now you've given me new things to search for. In the old days we had to rely on folks like Abbie Hoffman (Steal this Book) for learning these sorts of things. Amazing to think what tools ISPs and agencies must have compared to the typical subscription tools available to webmasters and seo folk.

  9. Medison says:

    Interesting post indeed. It really makes sense to think in this direction, because search engines are surely looking over this problem and in no future will implement some restrictions and regulations. Personally i am against this because search should be open to everyone, and everyone is responsible for themselves.

  10. Ruud Hein says:

    Google China and Google Germany are good examples of search engines censoring themselves.

    Rif, I agree; anything has a good side and a bad side and anything can be used for good or bad. It's a nice exercise to identify them.

    Thanks for all the comments; it encourages me to continue the series.

  11. well this is a common thing that search can be used for good as well in the bad way.. but i think it depends on the people who uses the information of search in what way he want to use..

  12. Metaspring says:

    You are quite right about what an important part search plays, without search nothing would be accessible and with it, it amazing what IS accessible; though very often it is a case of TOO MUCH INFORMATION :)

  13. Eva White says:

    I went and checked out the bomb details via google and its truly scary the information that is available. Same with suicide. I would not want this information to be available so freely to many people.

  14. Search is leading to some information that we would not want to have spread around getting to individuals that we would not want it to get to. Not much can be done about this, except punishing anything that goes out of the norm.

  15. Downloadic says:

    I think threads like making the bomb should be removed.

  16. Kevin says:

    well this is a common thing that search can be used for good as well in the bad way.. but i think it depends on the people who uses the information of search in what way he want to use..