Google Will Help Police to Track “Extremist Websites” Through its Search Results

from Google’s indexing of extremist websites helps police track their
activity and will continue, the company’s chief told an audience at the
Hay festival.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, was asked to act to take
down terrorist-sympathising websites from his search engines during a
question and answer session at the literary festival on Saturday.

This weekend MPs, including the Labour politician Paul Flynn, called
on the company to prevent searches listing sites for groups such as the
Islamist organisation Al Shabaab.

Schmidt said: “We cannot prima facie identify evil and take it
down. We have taken the decision that information if it’s legal, even
if it’s despicable, will be indexed.”

He went on to argue that extremists are usually possible to detect
through their internet activity and that their online presence can
sometimes help.

“Extremists are not clever enough not to be found out. They leave a
digital trail the police can follow,” he said, after an interview with
the mathematician Marcus de Sautoy.

Schmidt put the ball firmly back in the court of government when it
came to questions raised this month about corporate tax avoidance,
following criticism that Google does not pay a fair level of tax in
Britain. Answering a question posed from an impassioned audience member,
he said: “I am rather perplexed by this issue. The international tax
regime has been around a long time. No rational computer scientist would
have erected such a system.”

He said that decisions about these matters should be taken by elected
governments and not companies. “Under US law we have a fiduciary
responsibility to do what we’re doing. We understand the complaint but
we can’t fix it. The British government can fix it,” he said.

Asked if Google is now more powerful than many countries and whether
it in effect operates just like one, Schmidt said it was not an aim of
the company. “We’re not becoming a state. We don’t want to be because
states have a lot of complicated problems.

“On the whole, it is a fight between the internet community
and government who do what they want to do. We can’t force governments
to do what we want,” he said.

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