South-Western - Management  
Hate Messages on Google Site Draw Concern
Topic Technology, Innovation and Change
Key Words Online social networking, standards
News Story

Millions of Internet users have joined Orkut, a Web site created by Google that allows its members to join a list of online communities by invitation only. Most of the groups share a benign common interest like jazz music or travel. A small minority of groups, however, have been formed around hatred for Jews, blacks, or gays. This situation is causing a problem for Google, since online specialists say that the dialogues taking place are strictly forbidden in the user's agreement for the site and may even be illegal in some countries.

Google, which has adopted "don't be evil" as its motto, is facing new risks and problems as it ventures into new Internet businesses like Orkut. Generally, Internet laws and customs exempt service providers from responsibility for the behavior of their users. However, with the social networking sites, the responsibility is more ambiguous. Other Internet social networking sites like Friendster have had similar problems with hate groups, but the situation is more pronounced at Orkut where communities are formed based on stated shared interests. A competitor site called Tribe Networks employs a full-time staffer who looks for hate speak and handles complaints as they come up.

Orkut debuted a year ago. Nearly two-thirds of its registered users are from Brazil, a country whose people are quick to adopt emerging technologies. In Brazil, racism is against the law and carries a penalty of up to two to five years in prison. Jorge Santos, a Brazilian prosecutor who has launched an investigation into the site's practices after discovering some of the hate communities on Orkut, says that it is unlikely that Google could be held criminally responsible in a Brazilian court, however, they could be sued for damages for a lack of precautionary measures against racist crimes on their site.


Google has had tremendous success with its original concept. List at least three reasons why it might want to innovate and create a site like Orkut, even with the risks involved with trying new things.


What are some of the issues facing Google as it tries to resolve the issue of hate speak on one of its sites? Be prepared to discuss your answers in class.

Source "Hate Messages on Google Site Draw Concern," The New York Times, Feb.7, 2005.
Instructor Discussion Notes Discussion Notes
These notes are restricted to qualified instructors only. Register for free!

Return to the Technology, Innovation and Change Index

©2005  South-Western.  All Rights Reserved     |