Google blasts MPs' web screening proposal

Google has hit back at MP's calls for the screening and restricting of offending online content, likening it to "asking phone companies to listen in on every call".

Martin Horwood: hits back on Twitter
Martin Horwood: hits back on Twitter

Google was responding to a report published yesterday (27 March) by the joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions.

Google said in a statement: "Requiring search engines to screen the content of their web pages would be like asking phone companies to listen in on every call made across their networks for potentially suspicious activity.

"Google already removes specific pages deemed unlawful by the courts. We have a number of simple tools anyone can use to report such content, which we then remove from our index."

The search giant added this is a "really important issue" for which there are no "easy answers", particularly when "balancing freedom of expression and tackling unlawful content."

The report by the Joint Committee on Privacy and Injunctions called on companies such as Google, Twitter and Facebook to take steps to ensure that information protected by court orders is not discovered on the internet, as was the case in the Ryan Giggs dispute last year.

It called on Google and other search engines to take steps to ensure they are not being used as "vehicles to breach the law" and should "actively develop" and use such technology.

It said: "We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so, it should be introduced."

The report said Google has acknowledged it is possible to develop technology that could proactively monitor websites for material that is judged to infringe on privacy.

The report said: "We find their objections in principle to developing such technology totally unconvincing."

Shortly after the committee hearing took place in January, committee member Martin Horwood MP, tweeted: "Embarrassing rudeness to Google, Twitter & Fb and ignorance about internet from my 'colleagues' on joint privacy & injunctions cttee today."

Facebook said it is reviewing the reports and will continue to engage in the debate around this "important subject".

It added: "We are pleased the report notes that notice and take-down procedures operated by responsible social media providers, such as the one on Facebook, are effective."

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing.

Follow Sarah Shearman on Twitter @Shearmans

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