Hypothetical question : Is Google responsible if it sends illegal images to your device?

So... you know you're going to be googling some potentially risque terms. You want to make sure you don't accidentally access anything illegal, so you log on to google, set your safe filter to maximum, and then start your research.

Somehow, bizarrely, you come across a particular set of search terms (the only potentially dodgy word in the terms is "nude") and your screen fills with mostly illegal images. Your filter does not stop them from appearing in the search results.

Is google responsible for the failure of the filter? Are they responsible for indexing illegal images and returning them in a google search? Considering that in some jurisdictions, merely downloading those images (as your browser has done) carries a jail term, where does the blame lie? You can argue you had no intention to get dodgy images, by applying the filter. But you are also the one who typed in the search terms.

Who or what, is legally liable, in your opinion?

Since apparently the question is confusing as written... I am asking for your opinion (not your legal opinion, or what the law currently says in your jurisdiction) where do YOU think the culpability should lie?


Most Helpful Guy

  • i dont even use google, i dont know.


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What Girls Said 1

  • Assuming you're talking about... *those* kinds of nudes (yeah, THOSE kinds), the relevant US federal statute is XVIII U. S. Code, §2252. That is here:

    Note how the word "knowingly" appears at the start of EVERY numbered paragraph of the statute. That's not an accident.
    If you know about criminal law, you'll know that, in order for a crime to be a crime, there has to be an element of "mens rea" (= "guilty mind") -- basically, the level of AWARENESS that's actually required to make the crime... a crime.
    In increasing order of awareness, the levels of mens rea are...
    • Strict liability (= it's a crime even if zero awareness)
    • Negligently
    • Recklessly
    • Knowingly
    • Purposefully

    So, the kinds of crimes you're describing require the 2nd highest possible standard of awareness. That's a pretty high standard.

    In other words -- there's no fucking way someone would be going to jail in this situation, if the search terms were "innocent" enough.


    This statute was first adopted to protect people who might accidentally (or as the result of sabotage) receive *printed* illegal pornography. There was no internet back then -- so, the courts have basically had to decide on-the-fly exactly what "knowingly" means in these cases.

    If you want to read more about this, read this:

    Are you... in law school?

    • Also, this goes without saying, but -- if you're in another country, you could be totally fucked.

    • Show All
    • I mean... OK, look. There are 2 reasons why @0112358 and I both misinterpreted yr question. I'm a bimbo with big tits, but, he's really fucking smart, and we BOTH misinterpreted it. :*

      One reason is the wording. As already hashed out

      The other reason is this:
      • The LEGAL question -- the mens rea thing -- is actually INTERESTING and NONTRIVIAL.
      • The MORAL question is "Well, like, duh".

      Like srsly?
      Right at the beginning, you wrote...
      "You want to make sure you don't accidentally access anything illegal"

      So... OF COURSE you shouldn't be personally held responsible. If anyone WERE personally railroaded in such a case, it would be a clear travesty of justice -- the kind of thing that would appear in future law casebooks as "How NOT to apply the law" and/or "clear abuse of judicial power".

      Tbh that's probably the MOST important reason why both of us jumped to the statutory analysis -- because "naaaaaaaaahhhhh he **couldn't** have meant THAT".

      Had you made the question more

    • INTERESTING -- like, in any of the following ways...

      "The search terms in THIS search were innocuous... but, this user has had a checkered history of LESS innocent searches in the past"

      "The user is squeaky clean, history-wise, on this device, but, there's incriminating evidence on another device on the same family plan... but in a different primary user's name"

      "The user isn't a native speaker of English, and so it's unclear how to tell the difference between 'lost in translation' and 'actual nefarious intent' "

      ... okay, now, THOSE are actually INTERESTING MORAL QUESTIONS.

      The original question, from a moral standpoint, is "Duh". It's IMPOSSIBLE to hold the person morally culpable in this case, because there are zero conscious actions of any kind that lead to the "crime".



      PS... Diplomacy is a highly valuable skill.

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