Hi everyone,

Here’s a Wired.com article that I think has some relevance in relation to Benkler’s work and larger issues running through the course. A health service search engine (known as Popline) run by USAID, the office of the federal government in charge of health care aid for developing nations, brings up no results after a search for “abortion” – despite the fact that the database contains several journal articles and health literature with the word “abortion” right in the title. Popline is hosted at Johns Hopkins University, and a representative there reported that because the project is federally funded, “abortion” is one of the so-called “stop words.”

Even setting aside the undoubtedly contentious issue of abortion, this seems to raise several questions. The search engine’s policy of disabling searches for “abortion” does not simply block articles touting the beneficial if ethically controversial effects of increased access to abortion in developing nations; it blocks any and all information on abortion, period. This attitude toward encouraging a specific platform of the Bush administration seems quite similar to the attitude of Hollywood and the music industry with regard to content ownership and copyright. It’s a blanket restriction of information, regardless of the actual effects of that information. Some of the literature in the database might show the detrimental effects of abortion in the same developing nations. In any case, the underlying assumption on the part of the top-down industrial-information model at work here seems to be that information about abortion, just like information about birth control (which the engine does allow searching for) will lead to only one result: the unacceptable (according to social conservatives) increase in abortions and sex before marriage.

Do you guys know of any other examples of government-imposed censorship on the internet?