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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Google Germany Censors Ogrish, Others

Ideally, Google should be acting like a camera – you don’t hold the camera maker responsible if the camera photographs illegal content. In the real world, however, Google is often acting as an extension of country-specific laws, censoring results before they hit the user. In that way, it’s acting as a reality-distorting camera.

The seemingly latest act of censorship is that of Search for it on using the site operator, and you get “about 64,900” result pages. Do the same search on Germany’s, and you’ll get 0 pages – and the following disclaimer:

“In response to a legal request submitted to Google, we have removed 260 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read more about the request at”

At the Chilling Effects page linked, we can see the following statement:

“A URL that otherwise would have appeared in response to your search, was not displayed because that URL was reported as illegal by a German regulatory body.”

What’s anyway? It’s a site showing off brutal reality content, like videos or photographs mainstream news wouldn’t show. Ogrish in their FAQ states, “Everything you see on is reality, it’s part of our life, whether we like it or not. We are publishing this material to give everyone the opportunity to see things as they are so they can come to their own conclusions rather than settling for biased versions of world events as handed out by the mainstream media.”
But whether or not you buy that isn’t the real question. The real question to me is why the German law deems it necessary to kill the messenger (Google). The fact that Google conforms to the request here also shows again that Google is not only censoring content that you won’t be able to see anyway, as most people in Germany can easily access

The same thing that has happened to, by the way – albeit with slightly different numbers – has happened to on now. As does, showcases violent imagery. As with, they are now missing on and Google in their disclaimer cites about the same removed results count and link (the count changed while I’m writing this article, and it also differs at Google web search and Google image search). By comparing the page count on and the number of pages Google claims to have removed, however, we can see the number provided is totally off: at, there are 64,900 pages missing, and at, around 289,000... not a mere 260.

By the way, showing their censorship disclaimer for all searches is a new thing. There was no such disclaimer a short while ago when searching for e.g. (a Nazi site apparently illegal in Germany). Today, there is.*

Now, is trying to escalate the situation by posting their defense, linked from the front-page. They are also making their case as to why they think it’s legal for them to maintain their site. In a nut-shell, there’s a part in German censorship laws which says violent imagery is only illegal if it’s glorifying violence. While I think that does this to some extent (i.e. a virtual “gallery of the macabre” to entertain an audience), on the surface does not... though I don’t know the site well to tell for sure.

I do know that German censorship law is often completely over the top in their demands – for example, the BPjM (as they are called) censored the records of a German punk band**... censored in the sense that the band was not allowed to sing their lyrics anymore, and that no one was allowed to advertise or review their albums. In another case, this censorship organization put the movie Starship Troopers on their blacklist – a satire on fascism/ national socialism! Ironically, this often gives a push to the content the law tries to silence. This was the case with that German punk band, and that might be the case now with

*Google’s help entry on censorship still reads, “For some older removals (before March 2005), we may not show a notice at this time.”

**The band is called Die Ärzte (The Doctors) and in the 80s, they were singing about incest (love between siblings) and sodomy (love between a woman and her dog). To this day, Die Ärzte remain to be one of the most popular German bands.

Also see other sites Google censors in Germany.

[Thanks Robert Gale.]


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