Lawyer Uses Google to Judge Obscenity

Common search terms can show 'community standards,' he says
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jun 24, 2008 9:13 AM CDT
A Google sign inside Google headquarters is seen in Mountain View, Calif., in this May 30, 2007 file photo.    (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
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(Newser) – A defense lawyer in a Florida obscenity case is trying out a new technique for determining those elusive “community standards” courts have been fighting over for years: what locals search for on Google. The resourceful attorney compared the frequency of local searches for words like “orgy” and “apple pie,” and found that searches for the former were more common, the New York Times reports. That behavior, he argues, constitutes evidence of the sort of standard a 1973 Supreme Court decision called for.

Using the data, “we can show how people really think and feel and act in their own homes,” said the lawyer. The case addresses a man who allegedly made and distributed obscene material on a Florida-based website. Not surprisingly, the prosecutor isn't buying Googling as a good barometer of community standards.