Monday, June 20, 2005

Search engines lost in law systems

On Friday Nico van Eijk held his inaugural lecture at the University of Amsterdam. He recently was appointed a professor in Media and Telecommunication Law. I know him as a contributor to the newsletter Telecombrief. He was the legal media and telecom expert for the publication.

His inaugural lecture was entitled Search engines: seek and ye shall find, on the place of search engines in the law system. He poses that information is becoming a source of societal and economic development and that most information becomes available through Internet. In this process search engines are important. They determine the retrievability of available information and by making information accessible they become a power factor. In fact they overtake the search engines available in libraries and the academic world, which work on the basis of qualitative, verifiable and objective criteria.

Search engines have hardly been subject of research in law. Search engines have an ambivalent status as question might partly pertain to telecommunication law, but other question touch content. The search engine is lost in law, Van Eijk says. He proposes to start up legal and multidisciplinary studies into the position of search engines on a national and international scale.

In his program he wants to make the operating procedures of search engine companies more transparent. This can be done by using the E-Commerce Directive of the European Commission , which most EU countries have already implemented. This is fine for national and European search engines, but EU law does not cover American ones. Clear is also that objective search results can not be a basis for a business model; but excesses need attention and need to be limited by regulations. Also supporting media education should be promoted, not just to tell people that they should use alternative search engines, but educate them in the use of commercial search engines. Also the government should have a task in this.

It an interesting subject. To me the search engine problem is like smoking. When Google came into existence, it was great; now that it is big business and non-reliable due to companies buying positions. People should be warned and search engines should be obliged to carry a health warning: SEARCH ENGINES MIGHT BE DANGEROUS FOR YOUR INFORMATION CONSUMPTION.

(BTW Did anyone see the GP Formula 1 in Indiana last night on television. What a farce, except of course for the Dutch new media company Lost Boys which was prominently present on the front wings of two of the cars out of six).

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