In August 2007 the government of Brazil threatened to shut down Google.br after it was found that paedophilia and child pornography was being propagated through the Google-owned social network, Orkut.
According to sources, 89% of complaints about web-based child pornography in the country were related to Orkut. Needless to say, this is a very serious offence. The Brazillian government had initially approached Orkut to cooperate with them on this issue but were turned down because the personal details of the perpetrators was supposedly held by Google Inc. in the U.S.A.
A feature introduced on Orkut that allowed the creation of private albums, only accessible to a user’s contacts, has been abused to spread child pornography. According to a federal prosecutor from Sao Paulo, Sergio Suiama, “the dissemination of Orkut in Brazil has turned the country into a distributor of child pornography, and Google doesn’t seem to be worried by that.” He further added that about one-third of Internet users in Brazil are between 10-15 years of age, and hence it is urgent to put an end to this problem.
Google has agreed to develop image filters on Orkut that will detect and prevent the uploading of child pornography. They have also decided to keep records of any data that looks suspicious for a period of 6 months instead of the usual 1 month.
Considering the seriousness of the issue at hand, Google defended their earlier refusal to hand over personal data of the paedophiles using Orkut by saying that handing over the required information was not an issue, but they had not received any official communication in this regard so far.
Brazilian police will be given access to 3,261 private photo albums on Orkut that may contain child pornography. So far, user IPs and navigation logs of over 1,000 cases have been handed over by Google to the Brazilian authorities.
For now, the Brazilian government seems to be satisfied by Google’s efforts to curb the problem, and is willing to see if these measures will suffice. Some prosecutors have threatened civil and criminal suits against Google, though, if details are not revealed soon.