Google has banned the 8chan imageboard
A little over a week ago it became clear that Google had suddenly placed some kind of undeclared embargo on search results for the 8chan imageboard.
This is a two-year-old website that has become increasingly notorious — for sharing hacked celebrity photos and alleged child pornography as well as for sheltering the small GamerGate group that loudly opposes the equality of women in computer gaming and everywhere else and who take every opportunity to harass and threaten women online and in the real world.
Well, by the 12th of August it looked as though Google had blocked all results from the entire 8chan domain on the grounds that they were suspected, across the board, of containing child abuse content.
Now, in the last two days, some tech sites have reported that Google has lifted its ban.
But from where I’m sitting, all Google has done is open its fist a little — the search giant still has a firm grip on 8chan’s throat.
Google quarantines a leper
Today (Wednesday, August 19), when I entered the query “8chan” in three major web search engines: Duck Duck Go, Yahoo and Bing, the top result for each was: “8chan — Official Site” (8chan.net) — the self-described “infinitely expanding imageboard”.
However, the same search today in Google resulted in pages and pages of secondary references to 8chan but no “8chan — Official Site” and each page of Google’s results was footed with the statement:
“Suspected child abuse content has been removed from this page.”
If that’s not Google still blocking 8chan then I don’t know what it is!
Yet there are websites reporting that 8chan has been restored to Google’s index and search results. The top link on Google’s non-results for “8chan” was to a Naked Security post entitled: “8chan back after Google banned entire domain for child abuse imagery“.
Ars Technica, the website which effectively broke the story of the ban last week, has updated their original post to indicate that direct searches in Google for “8ch.net” and “site:8ch.net” will now return direct links to 8chan’s many subsites but that “searches for less direct terms like ‘8chan’ only bring up indirect links, as per the original report”, and that “all affiliated searches still contain a warning about child abuse content”.
What Google has done is apparently climb down from its earlier imposition of a unilateral, undeclared and extra-legal embargo on the entire 8chan domain.
Basically, Google appears to have moved to quarantining 8chan — preventing more people from discovering the imageboard, rather than preventing the people who already know exactly where it is from accessing it.
Just picture one big “fappy” family
For people not familiar with such things, Imageboards are a type of website originating in Japan that are purpose-built to facilitate the posting, sharing and discussion of imagry celebrating the various psycho-sexual fixations that a largely male audience has with a largely female cast of anime and gaming characters.
The American site 8chan was created in 2013, to be an even less restrictive version of the very free American imageboard 4chan and both U.S. sites are, in turn, inspired by the Japanese imageboard Futaba Channel.
Last Thursday (August 13), 8chan’s founder, Frederick Brennan, posted on his blog that Google had taken an unprecedented step in blocking 8chhan’s entire domain; that it had long been Google’s stated policy to only block specific links to a domain, such as when those links were the subject of a DMCA complaint.
Google search results are peppered with thousands of such redaction notices:
“in response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed [x] result(s) from this page.
Brennan expressed bewilderment at why 8chan had been singled out, both for the ultimate sanction of domain blocking and also also for the inclusion of the notice “Suspected child pornography has been removed from this page”, which Brennan said has only been seen 10 times before on the Internet.
Google has previously de-indexed and blocked domains, notably the Co.Cc domain in 2011 for being a spam vector and Google continues to block thousands of websites every day — late last year, the search engine blocked something like a million WordPress sites due to potential malware infection.
And up until 2013 Google made it possible for ordinary users to block specific domains of their choice from their search results.
I am shocked — shocked— to find that gambling is going on in here!
In his blog post, Brennan used one of Google’s own rationales in order to defend 8chan’s conduct, saying that 8chan didn’t control what people uploaded and could only act after the fact , exactly the way Google has said that it doesn’t control what it indexes and can only act after the fact, when notified of a violation.
“Google, at least, a long time ago, before the existence of online “safe spaces” had a central argument — we have no control over search results as it represents the content of the internet as seen through the eyes of an algorithm. We do not moderate our search results, and will delete infringing links in the case of a DMCA or an abuse report”.
Brennan says that this is how 8chan operates also, as if to say, “gosh, if you knew that our website was full of illegal content, why didn’t you tell us?”
Like, if only someone would tell Brennan that those hacked celebrity nudes shared on his website (and 4chan and Reddit) as “The Fappening 2.0“, are illegal content, he would certainly do something about them.
In blocking 8chan’s domain, Google was (and still is) acting outside of any previously declared policy. This is contrary to the rule of law and represents a potentially chilling example of a company using its near dictatorial control in a capricious and arbitrary manner.
But rather than ask the larger question, about where Google gets the right to act as judge, jury and executioner, Brennan asks what the consequences are if Google changes its position about having no responsibility for the content it indexes:
“If the bigger one of us gives up this fundamental doctrine how long until the smaller one is forced to?”
Brennan almost seems to be answering his own question; saying that Google’s sudden, unexpecred exercise of authority might force him to run his own website more responsibly.
Damn it! Click the images to enlarge them.