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Letter Dear Editor -

The Register's story
about my report
Chester's Guide to Molesting Google
seems misguided. Some basic technical misunderstandings were evident, especially regarding how material is removed from Google's search results. To aid people in understanding the details of Google's blacklist, I've now written a guide on this topic: Google Censorship - How It Works
Note my site was not censored from the search engine AltaVista. I believe the writer misunderstood how that search engine works, making an error by doing a too-restrictive search, and so mistakenly thought my
site was absent because of censorship.

I don't see how I'm "creating hysteria" by reporting on the removal of material from Google's index. Nor even in being concerned about the implications. I would like to point out that of all the articles on the topic, I would say mine was the most factually accurate, and also enabled readers to further investigate the situation themselves if they were so inclined.

I'm not particularly criticizing Google. But rather, my target is the process of "moral panic". This leads to one file of a puerile attempt at humor, eventually being reported as an illegal site of
pedophilia, and then blacklisted from the most powerful search engine.

Perhaps the material here was indeed of "extremely limited value". But it was certainly nowhere near against the law (in either the US or UK). And if this sequence of events was not documented, it would have been easy to dismissively claim it as hyperbolic, absurd, and fictional.

When such an event occurs, with nothing behind it but pack-journalism, it leads me to wonder what else might happen. As war with Iraq looms, how readily could some politically embarrassing material be ordered
removed from Google for "military necessity" or similar? Knowing how easy it is make molehills into molesters shows us how readily such
suppression might happen.

Sincerely,

Seth Finkelstein
sethf.com


More letters to follow. ®

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