Searches and Seizures

June 25, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

To be obscene in a criminal trial, a sexy picture, movie, Website or whatever has to be offensive to “community standards.” But how do we know what community standards are?

A defense lawyer in a Florida case is using Google. He’s presenting data on the number of Google searches in Pensacola. (New York Times story here.)
In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” . . . “We tried to come up with comparison search terms that would embody typical American values,” Mr. Walters said. “What is more American than apple pie?” But according to the search service, he said, “people are at least as interested in group sex and orgies as they are in apple pie.”
I’ve come to know a little about this kind of search myself. On May 2, I blogged about the reaction to a picture of Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair. I gave my post the title “Good Girl, Naughty Picture.” Since then, that post has gotten more traffic than any other – about one seventh of all hits on this blog.

It was the “naughty” in the title that did it. Google “15 year old girls naughty pictures,” and I’m at the top of the list. Other search strings that have brought readers here include
  • naughty 9 year old girls
  • naughty girls with their naked photos
  • 16 year old girls naughty pictures
  • 13 year old girls being noughty [sic]
  • disney naughty lines
You get the idea.

I realize that writing these phrases in this post will bring even more naughty Googlers. But how else can I only report the relevant data? I’m not proud to be so highly ranked on these Google searches.* No doubt, these seekers of naughty, like the readers who got here looking to win the lottery by visualization, were disappointed. But I prefer to think that once here, they abandoned their original intent and actually read the post. Then, socio-curious they started looking around at other pages. Fascinated, enlightened, and thirsting for more, they clicked on the links to other blogging sociologists . . . . That’s my fantasy, and I’m sticking to it.

* I am pleased, however, that on a search for “Goffman, Milgram,” I’m in the top two or three. Add “Borat,” and it’s no contest.

1 comment:

Brad Wright said...

New title: Montclair's Naughty, Naughty Socioblog