Google Censorship Initiative Thwarted by ‘Gee! No Evil!’

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Old 14-Jun-2011
Post Google Censorship Initiative Thwarted by ‘Gee! No Evil!’

Google Censorship Initiative Thwarted by ‘Gee! No Evil!’ Add-On

Earlier this year Google launched a piracy blacklist and began filtering keywords from its Instant and Autocomplete services. A necessary measure to counter online copyright infringement according to the search giant, but not everyone agrees. To partially undo Google’s censorship efforts, the “MAFIAA Fire” team has now released the “Gee! No evil!” Firefox add-on.

When Homeland Security’s ICE unit started seizing domain names last year, a group called “MAFIAA Fire” decided to code a browser add-on to redirect the affected websites to their new domains.

A perfect illustration of John Gilmore’s famous quote: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Releasing the browser add-on was a statement more than a technical breakthrough, but it had a bigger impact than the MAFIAA Fire team could have ever hoped for. ICE asked Mozilla to pull the add-on from their site but Mozilla denied the request, arguing that this type of censorship may threaten the open Internet.

This victory for the MAFIAA Fire team encouraged them to come up with more anti-censorship tools. Today the team lived up to that aim by releasing a new Firefox add-on named “Gee! No evil!” which targets Google’s recent censorship initiative.

Starting a few months ago Google began filtering “piracy-related” terms from its ‘Autocomplete‘ and ‘Instant‘ services. The unpublished blacklist includes “torrent”, “BitTorrent”, “uTorrent” and “RapidShare” and was updated with the term “Mediafire” last week.

According to Google, the blacklist is an effective tool to curb online piracy, even if the terms themselves are not exclusively linked to copyright infringement.

“While there is no silver bullet for infringement online, this measure is one of several that we have implemented to curb copyright infringement online,” Google spokesman Mistique Cano told TorrentFreak.

“This is something we looked at and thought we could make some narrow and relatively easy changes to our Autocomplete algorithm that could make a positive difference,” Cano added.

But not everyone agrees that censorship is the preferred solution here. The MAFIAA Fire team, for example, believe that Google has simply caved into pressure from the entertainment industry.

“Although typing a few extra letters is not a big deal for most, the fact that a non-innovative industry like the music industry has so much clout to pressure one of the icons in one the most innovative industry in the world was too much for us to ignore,” a MAFIAA Fire representative told TorrentFreak.

“We had to do something about it, just out of principle,” he added, and so today they released the “Gee! No evil!” add-on for Firefox. As with the redirector add-on, a Chrome version may be released later when enough donations come in.

The plugin reverses Google’s filter and adds the banned keywords to Autocomplete as soon as the user types in the first letter. It also kicks in if the second keyword is on the blacklist, so if a user types “Linux t” it will suggest “Linux torrent.”

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