Tech groups rally around Google in content fight

The tech lobby is mounting its forces to fight against Mississippi's demand that Google hand over information about how it takes down illegal content.

The Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association and Engine  — which together represent thousands of tech and startup companies — filed a court brief on Friday warning that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) is trying to control free speech online.  

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“No public official should have discretion to filter the Internet,” the groups argued in their joint filing

“Google’s business conduct is protected under the Constitution and under explicit federal law,” they added. “General Hood’s demands, which plainly are or border on harassment, chill free speech.”

Last month, Google sued Hood for sending a subpoena demanding details about how it takes down advertisements and search results for illegal content, such as drugs or pirated movies. Google has claimed that the subpoena was filed after coordination with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the lobbying group for Hollywood, which has demanded tech firms do more to block pirated content. 

Supporters of Google have said the MPAA appears to be turning to the states to enact tough copyright restrictions after Congress failed to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in 2012.

In addition to the tech companies, civil liberties advocates have also been critical of the attorney general’s move.

Groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute filed a similar friend-of-the-court brief on Friday, warning that the subpoena “could result in extraordinary costs” for Web companies.

The move would force smaller companies to either adopt new restrictions for posting content online or go out of businesses, which would “chill the online speech of Internet users who communicate via these platforms,” they wrote. 

Defenders of Google point to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Web companies from liability for the content people post on their websites.

Hood’s office says that the extra scrutiny is necessary to make sure children cannot easily buy illegal drugs on the Internet.