Google Responds to Orkut Child Porn Allegations

 
 
By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-05-20 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In response to growing criticism of its Orkut social network, Google recently said it takes any number of precautions to police the feature, including on occassion turning over Orkut abusers' account information to police.

There's been lots of recent pressure to clean up Orkut, mainly from government authorities in Brazil, where Orkut is wildly popular. It's believed that 30 percent of Brazilians that use the Internet are Orkut users.

But popularity comes with a price: Of the millions of Orkut communities that have been created, there are scores promoting child porn, racial hate speech and political extremism.

Orkut is, in a way, in the same situation as other social networks. For instance, there have been reports of Al Qaeda using MySpace, the leading social network, to recruit new members.

Yet, the Orkut troubles are noteworthy because Brazilian authorities seem intent on filing criminal charges against Google. In Brazil, it's illegal to promote hate speech, child pornography or political extremism. So the existence of these particular Orkut groups violates not only Orkut's service terms, but also Brazilian law.

If anything, the Brazilian rhubarb speaks to how Google and other U.S.-based Internet companies rapidly expanding overseas have to deal with any number of different national laws or customs.

In response to an inquiry about the situation in Brazil, a Google spokesperson described a number of proactive steps to police Orkut. For instance, when Google learns of instances of child porn, expressions of racial hatred, etc., the company will move "aggressively" to remove the content.

Google may also provide authorities with information about users that abuse the Orkut service. But it's on a case-by-case basis, and in response to a law enforcement requests that are "reasonable and follow an appropriate legal process," the spokesperson  added.

There are also tools that Orkut users can use to police the site by deleting postings or entire topics, banning users, and deleting anonymous posts.

"It is our intention to be as cooperative in the investigation and prosecution of crimes as we possibly can, while being careful to balance the interests of our users, our business and the request from the authorities," the spokesperson wrote.

"There are millions of communities for Orkut members to join, including hundreds of communities dedicated to education, peace, health, the environment and ways to eradicate poverty," she continued. "However, just as in the offline world, there will always be individuals or speech in online communities that certain people find offensive or inappropriate."

Google said it's unaware of a similar kind of criminal investigation that's supposedly pending in South Korea.

 
 
 
 
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