UK Asks Net and Search Companies for Help

Mr. Wilson over at Threadwatch has a post titled: UK Gov Attempts to Control Chatrooms & Search Engines that looks at an article from The Guardian about how the UK government is “urging” net companies to consider offering “help” links in chatrooms and on search engines after two strangers have died in a Net death pact.

The article also discusses how the UK government might want to outlaw rooms that encourage suicide but let’s leave that discussion for others.

What about search results?

Talks are taking place with a number of service providers, including Yahoo! and AOL, and search engine companies, in an attempt to reprioritise the results that are thrown up during a trawl on the internet. “When somebody keys in ‘suicide’ and ‘UK’, we would like them to be offered a link to the Samaritans long before they find a website showing them what they can do with a car exhaust and a hosepipe,” one official said.

Doesn’t this sound something like what Google does when an objectionable result appears? The only difference from what I can tell is that it’s Google that decides what’s objectionable. I can’t see how including a link (think of it as a public service announcement) to suicide prevention services is bad idea (it’s a good one IMHO) but the question is who decides — government officials or responsible individuals and companies? Suicide is an important issue and needs to be addressed. However, where does one draw the line on what and where these types of announcements “public service results” are placed on a web results page?

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