Saturday, October 28, 2006

COPA: search engines and labels

I noticed in the testimony (I think it was day 3) some concerns about whether various verfication schemes could cause content to be dropped from search engines.

My experience with content labels (like ICRA) is that they do not affect search engine behavior at all. ICRA has told me this, also.

The availability of content to a search engine affects the likelihood that an "immature" minor could find it. To this end, the recent developments among search engine companies and book publishers to make a lot of content available online free could be COPA-relevant, as could caches from search engines, and even the Internet archive. Sometimes publishers block robots from visiting free content. That means that a minor would have to know that it was there first, and is more likely to get the "redeeming social value" if forced to read a lot of it first to find anything salacious.

At the same time, small publishers and newbies want to be found by search engines. It doesn't raise the objections of aggressive marketing (unwanted emails, for openers). It doesn't require "sales culture", which a lot of people see as virtuous (the "always be closing" mentality of the movie "100 Mile Rule"). In actuality, it is not necessary to pay for search engine placement. Well constructed material, rich with content and with terminology and proper nouns, tends to be picke up. Static pages (often more "amateurish") used to be picked up more easily than dynamic pages, but that has been changing.

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