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A Google gag worth its name

The censorship debate is not and cannot afford to be a black and white one, with either a blanket ban on or all-out approval of any issue. That should be kept in mind when one discusses the recent move by technology giant Google to make it harder to find child sexual abuse images on the web. As Eric Schmidt, Google Inc’s executive chairman said in the British newspaper Daily Mail, the company has developed an algorithm that would anticipate about 100000 possible searches directing requesting or indirectly leading on to sexually explicit and exploitative images featuring children and minors and would make the search results inaccessible. In order words, even though such sites might be available and exiting online, Google would not be party in facilitating child pornography by disallowing its chief service, the search engine, to throw up results. Currently, the restrictions would apply to the English-speaking and using countries, but would be eventually extended to other countries as well by blocking searches in other European and non-European languages. Indeed, Google’s move is commendable, given the rising incidences of child sexual exploitation, brutality and murder as well as an exponential increase in transnational rackets that indulge in child sexual trafficking. Google’s decision might not eliminate the problem altogether, but would do much to prevent the virtual extension of such depravity, particularly those involving children under five years.

While the current discourse on pornography and paedophilia, as well as child sexuality, is skewed and partial, to say the least, the fact remains that posting sexually abusive images of children on the internet is a crime and illegal in almost every country. Moreover, in the cases involving children, there cannot be any legitimate question of consent, which is paramount and basic in the adult sex industry as well as its virtual extension, the online pornographic websites. While sexual preferences and expressions have undergone tectonic shifts with changing times, with hitherto ‘unmentionable’ sexual behaviour such as homosexuality, interracial liaisons among others, gaining greater sociocultural acceptability with each passing day, our notions on sex work and pornography too have matured over time. But no matter how liberal we become in our ethical, moral and sexual values, we do need to draw a line somewhere, depending on which point of historical time we are at. Obviously, child pornography is one such crime which no liberal and humanist argument can possible defend. It is vicious and malicious in intent and completely wrecks a human life at its bud. Google’s move is therefore welcome.
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