MPs have called on search giant Google to implement filtering technology to prevent users accessing material which could be subject to court orders.
MPs on the joint committee investigating privacy and injunctions said they were unconvinced by evidence presented by Google that the introduction of filtering technology was impractical.
The MPs labelled Google's evidence as “unconvincing” and warned that if it failed to introduce the technology voluntarily, legislation should be introduced to force its hand.
“Google and other search engines should take steps to ensure that their websites are not used as vehicles to breach the law and should actively develop and use such technology,” the MPs said in their report. “We recommend that if legislation is necessary to require them to do so it should be introduced.”
The committee was investigating the issue of privacy, especially in the light of the impact of social media, such as Twitter, where users have been able to circumvent so-called super injunctions.
Google was asked to appear before the committee following complaints made by former Formula One boss Max Mosley.
Mosley had won a court case against News International, after reporters for the now defunct News of the World obtained embarrassing photos of him engaging in sexual acts.
Mosley told the committee that he had subsequently had to embroil himself in a virtual game of whack-a-mole, obtaining new injunctions every time a website republished the photos.
“Where an individual has obtained a clear court order that certain material infringes their privacy and so should not be published we do not find it acceptable that he or she should have to return to court repeatedly in order to remove the same material from internet searches,” the report said.
The MPs noted that the issue of rogue tweeters was of less concern, as Twitter had handed over users' details when requested to do so by a court, ensuring that they could not hide behind a veil of anonymity.
Furthermore, the MPs noted action could be taken against overseas-based bloggers who posted material online in defiance of court orders, should they set foot in the UK.
The MPs' report has been strongly criticised by online campaigners.
"Any automated procedure will make mistakes and potentially restrict free speech," warned Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. "Google is currently being blamed for more or less every kind of content problem, but that really is very short sighted. Censor Google and people will move elsewhere to find the same thing," he told V3.