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'A wild party boat?' No, barges will be floating tech showcases, Google says

French court orders search giant to keep removing links to photos of Max Mosley orgy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 10:53am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 10:55am
 

Internet giant Google says it is exploring using two large barges on the east and west coasts of the United States as interactive learning centres.

A statement by Google on Wednesday helps end weeks of speculation about the purpose of structures on two barges, one being built in San Francisco Bay, another floating off Portland, Maine.

“Google Barge … A floating data centre? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above,” the statement says.

“Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”

A Google spokeswoman said the company was referring to both barges.

Google has been building a four-storey structure in the heart of San Francisco Bay for several weeks, but managed to conceal its purpose by constructing it on docked barges instead of on land, where city building permits and public plans are mandatory.

Until now, San Francisco city officials responsible for land use and state officials responsible for the bay have said they didn’t know what was being built there. Coast guard inspectors who visited the construction sites could not discuss what they saw.

If Google wants to operate an on-barge interactive learning centre in San Francisco Bay, the firm will eventually need to get permission from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

The barge off the east coast, built in a New London, Connecticut, harbour in July, was recently towed to Maine.

... the French court has instructed us to build what we believe amounts to a censorship machine
Google lawyer Daphne Keller

Meanwhile, a French court ordered Google on Wednesday to find a way to remove recurring links to nine images of former motor racing Formula One chief Max Mosley, who was photographed in 2008 at an orgy with prostitutes.

The civil dispute in the Paris Superior Court relates to photographs of Mosley published by the defunct British tabloid News of the World that were accompanied by an article suggesting he had organised a “sick Nazi orgy”.

Mosley has acknowledged that he engaged in sadomasochistic activity with the five women and paid them £2,500 (HK$31,200) but denied the orgy was Nazi-themed.

The decision is a setback to Google as it tries to defend a global stance that the search engine is merely a platform that delivers links to content and that the firm should not be responsible for policing them.

Although Google can delete images on its website, it cannot prevent others from reposting them, resulting in a constant game of catch-up.

In a statement, Google said the court’s request would require it to build a new software filter to continuously catch new versions of the posted images and remove them.

“This is a troubling ruling with serious consequences for free expression, and we will appeal it,” Google’s associate general counsel Daphne Keller said in a statement.

“Even though we already provide a fast and effective way of removing unlawful material from our search index, the French court has instructed us to build what we believe amounts to a censorship machine.”

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