HERTFORDSHIRE, U.K.—Google execs took a strong stand today at the company's Big Tent event in England against the mandatory imposition by government of internet filtering or any type of censorship, even when the conversation directly targeted the sticky subject of online porn, which is now apparently the de facto elephant in the room at every such event.
While the fact that the U.K. is currently grappling with the issue of mandatory this or that gave the discussion a bit more sense of urgency, from a timeline review of the proceedings provided courtesy of the Guardian, there appeared to be scant advocacy in the room for government censorship of yucky stuff other than by panelist Amanda Platell, an Australian journalist who writes for the Daily Mail, the right wing paper that has launched a national campaign in favor of an "opt-in" system of internet filtering.
Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt took part in a panel today, and addressed the issue of porn briefly, but it was the first panel of the day that really took the subject on, though in the end nothing that has not already been said was said. Panelists included Google's U.K. policy head, Sarah Hunter, the aforementioned Platell, U.K. ISP TalkTalk executive director Andrew Heaney, and censorship watchdog Index on Censorship's Kirsty Hughes. the panel was moderated by Krishnan Guru-Murphy.
For those not interested in anyone's specific comments, the Guardian's Charles Arthur summed up the hour thusly: "Porn debate over. Conclusion: no conclusion. Sarah Hunter, Google's public policy director, says obligatory filters are a bad idea. Amanda Platell of the Daily Mail says they're a good idea. Index On Censorship and TalkTalk don't like much either."
Platell, by the way, said she had visited the immensely popular tube site Pornhub.com the night before in preparation for the panel, and said it was a bit shocking. Later, in response to a comment by an audience member that online smut is just a racier version of dirty lad mags, Platell again referenced Pornhub pics she has seen that depicted "a woman being stripped and then forced to perform oral sex on another woman while..." Ironically, the rest was left to the reader's imagination by the Register.
Not much else to comment on but for Hunter's refusal to respond to a question about how much money Google makes from porn, though it is likely she doesn't have a clue. Google corporate probably doesn't have a clue!
Speaking of which... Eric Schmidt took to the Big Tent stage a few hours after the so-called porn panel, where, in addition to fielding a plethora of questions about a myriad of issues on the minds of audience members, he answered a specific question about porn, albeit deflecting the question by bringing up the altogether different (and less controversial) subject of child pornography.
Moderator: Censorship of porn? What's your advice to government?
Schmidt: Each country makes a different decision on adult pornography, but the good news is that even governments you hate, hate child pornography.
What I worry about is that such laws are often slippery slopes, such a law has to be defined very precisely and technical can be implemented. In many other countries adult pornography legislation is an attempt to legislate something else.
Moderator: So what is Google's role in that?
Schmidt: Our mission is to get the world's information to you... so we don't judge about that. We care a lot about openness, to the extent that governments are more open and honest we think that's positive.
Frankly, it's hard to take anything away from that other than that Google likes a world without ACTA, SOPA or the like.