Monday, November 17, 2003

The Strange Google Connection Between Goatse and Scientology

Okay, first of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with "goatse", let me explain. There's a popular internet picture of a man's bumhole that is affectionately known as goatse: Guy Opening Ass To Show Everyone. (Check out a thorough definition at Urban Dictionary.)

Silly morons everywhere on the web link to this picture on message boards, but disguise the links. It's a sophomoric joke that has turned into a horrible trend. Now when surfing the web you never know when what you click on will take you to goatse. (Unless you're smart, of course, and check to see what is being linked to before clicking on it.)

Anyway, so while looking into the goatse phenomenon I searched for "goatse" in Google. Try it yourself.

Now, see what's at the top? It's a link to the Google Directory entry on Society - Religion and Spirituality - Opposing Views - Scientology .

What's going on here?

Well, if I were to wager, I'd say it's a practical joke, either by some clever hacker or by the folks at Google themselves.

My guess is with Google. Google, you may have heard, was in a fight with the Scientologists back in 2002. The Scientologists didn't like that when you searched for Scientology on the Internet, a lot of anti-Scientology sites popped up. So they asked Google to no longer link to one site (www.xenu.net), threatening to take them to court under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copywright Act).

The Scientologists' reasoning was this: The anti-scientology sites Google linked to contained passages from copyrighted texts. Therefore, Google -- by linking to these sites -- was spreading copyrighted texts.

This is absurd. That's like the recording industry suing Google because it links to sites at which you can download mp3s.

The Scientology-Google case is not only absurd: It's chilling and a blow against freedom of expression. Linking is not a crime. Thankfully, it seems that xenu.net is once again in the search results for "Scientology".

My guess: the fine folks at Google connected "Goatse" and "Scientology" as a sort of mini-revenge.

Wonder how long that'll last?

Post-script

I see at least someone else has noticed the Google joke. It's mentioned in a discussion at slashdot. Frankly, I'm surprised no one has made a bigger noise about it.

For more information about the battles between the DMCA and freedom of expression on the Web, check out www.chillingeffects.org.
An article on the Google/Scientology case.
The Church of Scientology has waged many electronic campaigns against anti-Scientologists. They hadan anti-scientology page www.xenu.net removed from archive.org, aka the WayBackMachine. See discussion here. Also, search at www.chillingeffects.org for Scientology, like this.
Also, a good recent article on Google in The Guardian.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whers the link to goatse?

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