Google has deleted a site hosting lolicon material from its index in response to a complaint that the site was hosting child pornography.
The site in question hosts scanlated loli manga, and was reported to Google as a site hosting child pornography. Google removed the site from its index (the site itself is quite unaffected) and reported the site to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as is its obligation under US law.
However, at least one current US definition of child pornography explicitly excludes artistic depictions:
This definition does not apply to depictions that are drawings, cartoons, sculptures, or paintings depicting minors or adults.
Other definitions (there are a wide variety of conflicting statutes) which do not exclude 2D material are usually said to be unconstitutional but have generally gone unenforced and unchallenged, giving lolicon material a murky legal status.
The site itself has now been removed from the indexes of all Google servers, raising additional concerns over the global censorship of results based on US law alone.
With Google seemingly acknowledging it has a duty to delete millions of sites with “loli” material, irrespective of their legality wherever they might be published, it would appear it will either have to back down or begin systemically delisting huge swathes of the Japanese Internet (recall that even mainstream publications like Shonen Jump freely publish lewd depictions of underage characters), to say nothing of the wider Internet.
In fact, practically any illustrated depiction of sexual activity could be branded child pornography if this approach were taken to extremes – few could reasonably claim to be able to tell the difference between a 17-year-old cartoon and an 18-year-old one. Abusive and excessive use seems all but inevitable.
Others have pointed out that with the site in question already hosting material in violation of publisher copyright, artists and publishers are likely to be especially ambivalent about pressing the matter with Google lest they end up supporting piracy of their own works – clearly it would have been more desirable for such a test case to be unencumbered by copyright violation as well.
Google’s “do no evil” policy has largely been left in tatters since its abortive dalliance with the Chinese government, but with the introduction of an apparent system of anonymous child pornography denunciations with no legal basis it appears set to become even less credible.