<< by on July 3rd, 2008
This morning, I had a good chuckle as I read over the Washington Post Style section where I found an article that caught my attention. It seems that an attorney in Florida used Google Trends to aide in his client’s defense argument. Really? Wow.
The story goes like this… A Pensacola man, Clinton Raymond McCowen, was charged with obscenity and was set to stand trial on July 1 in Pensacola. But his attorney, Lawrence Walters, came up with a rather interesting defense. Apparently, obscenity laws rely on the concept of “community standards” — basically whether or not the community of Pensacola would find the material obscene.
So Attorney Walters decided to use Google Trends to determine popular keyword trends in the Pensacola area. His team was able to show, for example, that “orgies” were more searched than “apple pie” or “boating”. I loved the way the reporter, Monica Hesse, put it — “Orgies: More American than apple pie.”
The defense strategy didn’t see the inside of a courtroom, however, as McCowen, also charged with racketeering and prostitution, agreed to a three to five year prison sentence. But it does make you wonder… how accepted would a Google Trends defense be — especially since there’s a good bit of healthy debate out there about its accuracy? If Google won’t give us exact numbers for advertising purposes, why would it do so in Google Trends? I have my doubts at its full accuracy.
And if it isn’t accurate, how could it be used in something as important as a person’s prosecution or defense? And furthermore, do your web searches reflect your morals? Or the morals of a whole community? It at least poses some interesting questions.
That’s all for now — I have to get my depraved self back to searching Google for porn.