April 23, 2013

Google search leads to murder conviction

Filed under: IT,Online by Branko Collin @ 4:46 pm

In May last year an appeals court in Arnhem has upheld a murder verdict on the basis of the contents of the suspect’s browser history.

The court noted (PDF) that the suspect had been searching the Internet, mainly using Google, for amongst others ‘revolver’, ‘pistol’, ‘corpse delivery’ and ‘definition shot in the neck’.

In order to determine under Dutch law whether something is murder or manslaughter, the court must decided if the suspect acted with premeditation. “Following a plan that leads to the death of the victim”, the court writes, “counts as such. The court believes that lawful and convincing evidence exists that this is what the suspect did. He acquired a fire arm, found out how to use it, has looked for ways to make a corpse disappear, has searched on the internet for words like ‘death’ and ‘bullet through the head’ and has contacted the victim shortly before the latter disappeared.”

The suspect was convicted to 18 years imprisonment.

Webwereld reports that its sister publication Computerwereld and two scientists of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam have made an inventory of the cases in which the browser history of the suspect made the difference between a murder and a manslaughter verdict. They found at least five such cases. According to Webwereld, this difference can lead to 8 years more gaol time. Suspects searched for phrases like ‘murder without evidence’ and ‘getting away with murder’—oh, the irony.

(Photo by Flickr user nathanmac87, some rights reserved)

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February 24, 2013

Art students hack Google Images to become advertising platform

Filed under: Art by Branko Collin @ 2:03 pm

Students of the Willem de Kooning art academy in Rotterdam have managed to take a search string, ‘ultimate business car’, and have this produce five pictures in Google’s search engine for images that, once put next to each other, form an advertisement.

Search engines are in a continuous battle with Search Engine Optimizers, companies with the morals of an arsonist who try to replace relevant search results with links to the sites of their paymasters.

Students Pim van Bommel, Guus ter Beek and Alwin Lanting used the help of ‘hardcore SEO-ers’ to get the ad to show up in Google’s search results. The ad is no longer visible in its original form. When 24 Oranges searched for ‘ultimate business car’, the first panel had disappeared entirely and the text panels were in a different order. Van Bommel told Bright: “As soon as users start clicking on images Google’s algorithm changes the display order based on popularity. Unfortunately that is an aspect we do not yet control. Ads in which the order of the images is of less importance would be a good solution.”

The students call this concept Search Engine Advertising.

(Image: guusterbeek.nl)

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May 30, 2009

Optimize websites, lose lawsuits

Filed under: Automobiles,Online by Branko Collin @ 12:18 am

Remember that story about the website that lost a lawsuit due to how Google summarized its contents in search results? Well, the judge’s opinion came in yesterday, and it gets even crazier.

What went on before? Miljoenhuizen.nl had a web page on which the words “Zwartepoorte” and “failliet” (bankrupt) appeared together, although totally unrelated. According to Zwartepoorte the Google summary of that page caused people to conclude that the company had gone bankrupt, and so it asked Miljoenhuizen.nl to change the webpage to undo that impression. The latter refused and the former sued.

Miljoenhuizen.nl’s owner had—let me quote the court—“organized his website in such a manner that it scored “high” in Google, [so] the defendant has a responsibility in this matter.” In other words because the defendant ranked high in the search engine, he lost the case. He probably never helped himself by telling the judge how easy and trivial it is to change the page in a way that Google would no longer produce the damaging text.

Some good news for Miljoenhuizen.nl though is that it managed to net Solv (Dutch), the respectable internet law firm of amongst others Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm—he who once convinced a court that Kazaa was legal, although by then the filesharing company had fled to Australia only to be convicted there, perhaps because lesser legal minds roam the steppe of Southland.

(Full verdict here (Dutch, PDF). Link: Iusmentis. Joris van Hoboken, expert on the confluence of law and search engines, has an opinion in English.)

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