Google removes lolicon site from search results

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Loliero doujinshi scanlation site Little White Butterflies observes (link is safe for work but the rest of the site is very much not) that it has been removed from Google search results following a complaint, filed by an unnamed party, that it was hosting child pornography. Google also reported the site to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children—a legal obligation for US content providers who become aware of child pornography. The removal can be easily verified by searching for “Little White Butterflies” on Google. The site itself doesn't show up, and a notice at the bottom of the page reads:

In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 7 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at ChillingEffects.org.

The obvious problem with this course of action is that the targeted site was not hosting child pornography—or at least, that's what they say, but considering the material there, it is not difficult to see how this is very likely another case of sexual depictions of fictional children being misconstrued as child porn.

Since the Supreme Court ruling in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (2002), it is apparent that such fictional depictions are not child pornography under current US law (as defined under 18 U.S.C. § 2256; see in particular § 2256(11)). The PROTECT Act of 2003 has introduced separate provisions (Section 1466A) suggesting that such material might nonetheless be illegal to own or distribute in cases where it is additionally found to be obscene under the Miller test. There hasn't been a SCOTUS challenge of the remaining provisions yet, and since they seem to contradict Ashcroft v. ACLU, it remains dubious whether they are constitutional; but that's beside the point here.

The point is that Google applied a child porn procedure to material that was clearly not child porn (namely drawings). There is no legal requirement to “minimize access” to such content even if it is deemed in violation of Section 1466A: the requirement (§ 2258B(c)(1)) only applies to child pornography. Moreover, it is difficult to see how an independent determination can be made that Section 1466A applies, seeing as this requires judging the “literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” of the material, as well as applying undefined community standards (i.e. § 2258A(a)(2)(B), which to my knowledge has never been the basis for a conviction, is probably void for vagueness).

It is not entirely surprising that a content provider receiving a child porn complaint would want to cover their legal arses and be done with it. But Google isn't just any content provider. It's a company committed to “not being evil” and not giving in to the curtailment of free speech in places like China. Now I'm not saying that erodoujinshi scanlators are comparable to political dissidents in an authoritarian country, and most of the material on their site is probably problematic on copyright grounds anyway, but the whole affair is still sad and disturbing. The slope from there is slippery indeed.

The folks at Little White Butterflies have apparently contacted Google to resolve this issue. Let's hope it works out soon, and if it doesn't, alerting people like the EFF, the ACLU or the CBLDF is probably in order.

36 comments for ‘Google removes lolicon site from search results’.

I just put "sankaku complex" in google and it finds it just fine and SC should have been the first one to be blocked but the whole thing is stupid anyway.

Oh lol, yeah Sankaku has images everywhar, no clue how google could block some translator but not SC. Maybe it's something to do with hating stories and plotlines as opposed to just images?

The core issue is worrisome, and the CBLDF may offer advice, but I highly doubt that they, or any of the other organizations you named, would get directly involved when the site in question is violating copyright. There is no "probably problematic" about it. It just "is."

And should this become high-profile, the Japanese authors or publishers would be placed in an extremely awkward position. They would not be able to feign ignorance; this would force them into a confrontation.

Good luck to LWB in resolving their differences with Google, but in no way should this become a legal matter.

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the comment.

Sorry if I'm abusing legalese in this entry. My point was that Google did not have to remove that site from search results based on such a complaint. That's not the same thing as saying that they were not permitted to do so: I'm pretty sure that their action here was legal, and just morally reprehensible. It's about raising awareness, not litigation, obviously (and I don't think those guys were prepared to take Google to court either).

Regarding the "probably problematic" part, I first wrote "illegal" instead, but who am I to say that they didn't obtain permission from the rightholders for their translations, especially as I didn't have more than a cursory glance at the site's contents? It's clearly unlikely, but not completely unheard of for translations of original doujinshi (where the rightholder is just one guy with an e-mail address, instead of a company with a legal department the size of a small town)

>It's about raising awareness, not litigation, obviously

Ah. I assumed you saw at least some legal component, given your name check of CBLDF and ACLU.

Frankly, it might still be bad to publicize this beyond manga/otaku circles. I agree that the whole silliness behind equating loli manga with child porn should be discussed, but this particular example isn't the best conduit for that discussion. If there is even a hint that scanlations should be given even minimal consideration as protected speech, publishers would have come out against it with full force. That won't benefit anyone.

"Morally reprehensible" is too harsh. Think about it for a moment. When Google receives this sort of complaint about a random unknown site, do you really expect them to ask their employees to visit the site in question to verify the validity of the complaint (potentially exposing their employees to child porn)? And even if they try to verify the complaint about this sort of issue, do you expect them to pass it through a team of lawyers before they act on the request, placing them in a situation where they ostensibly knew about the issue and didn't act on it right away? What if their lawyers are wrong on this issue? This seems pretty unreasonable to me.

Whether or not it's ultimately the right end-result, I think the process followed here is the most logical one for all involved given the severity of the complaint. If they receive a take-down notice, they take the requested action and make the reason publicly-accessible. If that action turns out to be unjustified, they wait for the counterclaim/complaint. They can forward that counterclaim onto the proper authorities, and then the authorities can tell them if it's okay or not. It seems to me they're a lot better off risking being wrong a few times (and taking a few sites down that didn't deserve to be) than to even try to make their own legal determination about this sort of content. It's not as if the site's been kicked off the Internet, they're just no longer being indexed on Google. If it were me at the controls, I wouldn't even look at the site being contested; it just isn't worth the risk.

Yeah, and then you have a great method to attack a competitor and their ad revenue. Or fighting a one-man moral crusade against pretty much anything you dislike.

What if Larry Sanger had sent his complaint about Wikimedia Commons to Google instead of the FBI? The basis for the complaint was exactly the same (he argued that some material there was in violation of § 1466A). Should Google remove Commons from its search results in such a case, without looking at the specifics of the purported violation? And if not, why is this different?

Because of obviousness...? I know that in principle it's the same thing to block some small no name site from the search results as it would be to block Wikipedia, but everyone knows what Wikipedia is. No one knows what this no name scanlation site is. The two are comparable in theory, but there's no relation in practice.

Whay Larry Sanger did was a PR stunt. What happened in this case has every reason to seem legit from Google's perspective. But this is why they posted the notice so that it could be contested. If they're given the go-ahead to release the block, they will. As I said, I think that's a lot more feasible than asking Google employees to become the judges of what is and isn't child porn; that's a job best left for law enforcement and government agencies.

In fact, reporting laws make it compulsory to include "apparent child pornography" images in a TipLine report, so Google had to expose its employees to the material itself (and realize that it wasn't child pornography). It would have been the same with Wikimedia: look at the images, and either consider them legit or buy into the child porn accusations, report and delist. The nature of the images in question is, as I understand, identical. The practical difference, if any, is that Wikimedia isn't a wimp who can't fight back.

I could at least have some respect for Google's position here if there was an easy, conspicuous way to ask for the removal to be reconsidered, but I don't see any, i.e. no visible contact point. I don't know who the scanlators got in touch with, but I'd be hard pressed to find a relevant e-mail if, say, this blog got the same treatment.

Yes, I do expect them to go to the site and make sure that the site in question is actually having child pornography on it (even though I am for legalization of that) before they remove a site from their listings.
I don't think that they automatically remove OTHER sites that are listed as having child porn on them, in fact, there are still a LOT that are still listed. Why was this site singled out?

There is a double-standard coming into play here somewhere.

This all sounds like more knee-jerk reactions than anything else. I do wonder about where this is all going though. Someone please think of the illustrations!

The entire knee-jerk reaction of "this is publicly unacceptable; let's ban it to be safe" underlines the deep failings of our supposedly free society. The very fact that this action is so understandable is a problem.

I mean, yes, as Simon Jones said, it's politically unfeasible to defend this because it's offensive to so many. That is the very reason it is an excellent barometer of how oppressive society is about things that fall outside the norm.

I think you may have slightly misinterpreted my comment. My reservation about this incident is not that the content is politically difficult to defend, but rather that it would force Japanese artists/publishers to consider conflicting interests. Simply, they would obviously disapprove of the logic behind the de-listing, but they also cannot endorse the activity of scanning copyrighted works, or afford to have that considered protected speech under any circumstance.

Actaully, no, it is NOT offensive to so many. Fact is I showed my lolicon collection to a lot of people and they were like "WHATEVER! As long as it isn't real kids!"

The idiots out there want you to believe that pedosexuality and lolicon are offensive to so many, because they are seeing that things are changing towards OUR side among the normal American people, just like happened with homosexuality.

By not removing a link after being informed that it may contain child pornography, Google risk civil and/or criminal liability. Presumably they remove such links in order to reduce potential liability.

You're right that to do so without some investigation, on one hand, harms the falsely accused. On the other hand, Google is not some kind of public service (yet?), and they can index their search results more or less however they want. So there are no easy answers here.

[...] site called Tsurupeta says that Google has delisted a lolicon doujinshi site because of a complaint that it was hosting child porn. The complaint appears to be false (but [...]

"Moreover, it is difficult to see how an independent determination can be made that Section 1466A applies, seeing as this requires judging the “literary, artistic, political, or scientific value” of the material, as well as applying undefined community standards (i.e. § 2258A(a)(2)(B), which to my knowledge has never been the basis for a conviction, is probably void for vagueness)."

Christopher Hindley was recently sentenced to serve in prison because of the Protect act, wasn't he? If you take this precedent into account, LWB might be in a big trouble now. If just one community in the US thinks the material is obscence (Iowa in the Hindley case), LWB would be brought to trial in that community just like how Max Hardcore was tried in Florida despite the fact that he was based in California. Now, it would be a long time before SCOTUS can decide whether the Protect act is constitutional or not. (I doubt it because the SCOTUS doesn't think obscene speech, as decided by the Millter test, merits any protection.) In the mean time, law enforcement can have its way on this issue.

You seem to be confused about several things, here.

  1. Handley was sentenced after a guilty plea. The material in his possession was never tried or found to be obscene (I don't see a higher court upholding the lack of artistic merit, in particular). And the case not create any legal precedent, just a precedent saying that prosecutors can bully defendants into admitting to false charges (and that's hardly news).

  2. There is one instance of material found in violation of Section 1466A, namely the Whorley case, where real child porn muddied the waters.

  3. It is a huge stretch to say that SCOTUS has consistently upheld Miller v. California. The truth of the matter is that there have been very few obscenity cases brought before the court, and in those rare instances, little indication that it was affirming a Miller doctrine, at least in the last 15 years.

  4. But more importantly, none of this has any bearing on the comment I was making there. The particular statute in question, 2258A(a)(2)(B), was not introduced as part of the PROTECT Act, but years later, and it has not been tried in court.

Yes, I misunderstood the Hindley case, and I'm glad that you pointed it for me. I also misquoted you. My previous comment has nothing to do with Google. I was just concerned about the fate of LWB if they were going to trial.

That said, while the Handley case did not set a legal precedent per se, it did send a message that the Department of Justice is going to enforce 1466A on people possessing and/or distributing loli manga. It might be possible that Google knew about the Handley case, and they saw that LBW was pretty much the same. I think it's a natural action of a company that wants to avoid risk that they reported the matter to the NCMEC and delist the site. Just because 2258A(a)(2)(B) has not been tried in court before cannot ease the minds of Google's lawyers, I think.

ACLU v. Ashcroft (2002) is a case that convinced me that the court is upholding Miller, or at least Miller's type of test. The COPA defined "materials harmful to children" in quite the same way obscenity was defined in Miller v. California: it uses the "community standards" and the "lack of serious values" phrases. The court said that "COPA's reliance on 'community standards' to identify what material 'is harmful to minors' does not by itself render the statute substantially overbroad for First Amendment purposes." So the court was affirming the community standard clause, which I think is the most troublesome part of the Miller test.

No, they aren't. I've had the FBI come to my home because I speak out on legalizing pedosexuality, showed my lolicon collection to them, and they were "WHATEVER! Any REAL porn of actual kids in sexual situations? No? You're fine unless some jackass overzealous prosecutor tries to take you to court, and the case will be THROWN OUT if you get any judge outside of Texas because the "Miller standard" is unconstitutional, because it tries to enforce the morality of the majority on the minority who are doing no harm to anyone!"

If what you said above is true, it's good to learn that the FBI distinguished between child pornography and loli arts. This doesn't make me less concerned though.

The thing is, it only takes one overzealous prosecutor and one community whose standards find your speech obscene to put you in jail. You've seen such a prosecutor in the Handley case, and you can imagine lots of conservative community that thinks loli manga are obscene. Of course, Miller should be unconstitutional, but it has been used to deem Max Hardcore's work obscene in Florida, exactly where the community standards allow the DOJ to prosecute him.

I made a post about this as well, mt-i.

it seems that google even deleted the thread created on their forum about this.

And thanks to this, I discovered a new site and have it bookmarked.

In other news, Mangafox also lost all Lolicon content.
Sad days.

I'll have to rely on other places for my Vampire Bund now.

This is getting really pathetic. These morons should start to learn to differentiate between fiction and reality, since these are usually the morons who are constantly holding us back from progressing as a society. If they really want to categorize fictional children characters as real children, then they might as well claim that Disney has been showing us gory films where real people and animals have been murdered for the entertainment for children instead of the actual definition of cartoons.

To be considered as living beings, they need to meet these types of criteria:
- Capable of independent thought and movement
- Ability to breath
- Most importantly an actual physical body

People who can't tell the difference between fiction and reality, should seriously consider about living in a cave away from the rest of the population.

They are worried that pedosexuality is going to become the next legalized sexuality, just like homosexuality. The fact is that as more and more people are having willing consensual relationships with adults, as I did as a child, they are more and more looking down on these stupid 'child protection' laws and asking themselves "What the hell is the purpose of these! If someone wants to physically force a child into a sexual situation against their will, the law won't stop them! And a lot of those things are happening BECAUSE pedosexuality is illegal, just like we got Ted Bundy when homosexuality was illegal!"

A not-so-fun side-effect of this is that google purged the page from it's search indexes worldwide.

Even if they had reason to believe that keeping it listed on google.com could make them vulnerable to legal trouble via the PROTECT act or 2258A(a)(2)(B), it is utter nonsense to apply this worldwide.

This sorta sets a non-nice precedent for being purged from the google index in your own country even if your content may not be problematic in your own country. It's getting a bit ridiculous.

Another case of the PROTECT Act's tentacles going where it has no place going. Hell, Chilling Effects definition of CP is out of date (kudos to Cornell's School of Law for keeping up with this over-reaching B.S. law). This is another case moralf49ottry from people who get off on censoring something that they don't like. It's crap like this that makes me facepalm for my country.

Pedophile is a disorder that consist in being atracted by children, Lolita complex is about being atracted by young femines, read Navokob cause he started it.

In my eyes Estupro (having sex with an kid older than 13) is far away from pedophile, cause while a 8 yo boy is the same as a 8 yo girl a 13 yo child already have the characteristics (socialy, psicologicaly and sometimes fisicaly) of their gender, so is a girl or a boy before being a child.

In todays worl Homosexuality and Incest are not the tabu they were, cause today sex is not only for reproduction. But while in some country a lesbian couple can be acused of mutual rape, cause consent can only be with a especific gender.

So while in our western culture it doesnt matter the gender but the age, it doesnt matter if the 16 year old girl loves the 28 year old man, it still rape. As in the previous case it doesnt matter if two woman love themselvs, obviously they are forced (by one of them, or by mental illness) so is still rape.

[...] anti-censorship crusade in China, but furthering the issue as a legal matter will be difficult as suggested by others in the community since the site hosts copyright infringing derivative works without [...]

I just want people to know that around the same time laste year a similard thing happened to Amazon. Some book in one day where put into the mature section beacause they talk about homosexuality( even book with no sex just analyz).

I think that some people play with us.

http://markprobst.livejournal.com/15293.html

It's not the firs time that something like that happen.

Well if WordPress hasn't taken it down, I wonder if it could be bad? This is like free advertisement, ironically enough.

please realize that private organizations cannot censer information. because they are private organizations they are exercising their freedom to present or withhold information

That's still a form of censorship. Self-censorship. Furthermore, since google is used as a means of communicating information, they're censoring the relaying from those sources.

lieeesss ... lol if u put the word LOLICON and click images and deactivate the moderator it will show alot of hentai kids having sex

now I hate Google for doing that what do they understand about Otaku or Lolicon -_- pedophile & lolicon are totally a different thing -_- I really hate Google now you stupid Google -_-

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