I'm still digesting the meaning of Matt Richtel's fascinating piece in last week's Times about Google's role in determining communal morality. Apparently, the legal defender of a porn website in a Pensacola, FL obscenity trial is using Google to prove that the site's content failed to violate communal standards:
In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans toshow that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.
If one accepts this argument, if enough people in a community enter "group sex" into Google then this establishes the media distribution of group sex acts as an acceptable communal moral standard. Instead of the wisdom of the crowd determining knowledge, what we have here is the morality of the crowd determining ethical standards. Google's artificial algorithm, then, becomes both the judge and the jury in establishing what is good and what is evil.
As a hilarious follow up to the Richtel piece, The Silicon Valley Insider's Eric Krangel researched the ten American cities most likely to search for obscene material on Google. Louisville, KY came first, followed by Rochester NY and Philadelphia. (Los Angeles was ranked fifth and Las Vegas eight). This may well be great economic -- if not cultural or moral -- news for Louisville. Given that the vast buik of American online porn operators are based in either Lost Angeles or Las Vegas, expect a mass migration of the industry to Louisville where local "community standards" will provide them with much more protection in the courts.
Anyway, I'm looking for some group sex action this afternoon. Anyone in Louisville interested?