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Keep the AGs away from Google’s autocomplete

Don’t blame Google for illegal prescription drug market

By Paul McNamara on Wed, 06/19/13 - 11:37am.

The National Association of Attorneys General met in Boston yesterday and one panel discussion focused on the 1996 Communications Decency Act's "safe harbor" provision, which essentially enables the Internet to function as an open forum by protecting publishers and service providers from liability for third-party content.

Some of the AGs are petitioning Congress to let them make those "safe harbors" a lot less safe in the name of fighting crime and, of course, protecting the children. In making his larger case, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood took aim at Google's autocomplete feature to demonstrate that Google has more control over such content than it might let on:

Hood zeroed in on autocomplete in particular, saying, "We know they manipulate the autocomplete feature." He is concerned about search engines, particularly Google, where for example a user entering "prescription drugs online" is given "prescription drugs online without a prescription" as an autocomplete option.

First of all, this does not appear to be the case, at least not today and at least not for me. Here's my search on "prescription drugs online."

search1

I'm told that the panel participants were warned that searches generated by the session itself might affect results, so maybe that's what happened. Or maybe Google caught wind of Hood's favorite example of autocomplete complicity and self-censored.

(They said the iPhone would fail.)

In any case, I'm assuming that anyone intent on buying prescription drugs without a prescription doesn't really need the help of autocomplete.

And, let's be realistic, here: It isn't "objectionable" autocomplete suggestions that are the target, it's "objectionable" searches.

Slopes don't get any more slippery.

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