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Is it a floor wax, or a dessert topping?

Frank Pasquale, in the blog Concurring Opinions, scratches his head over the enigma that is Google (and other search engines) - media, search engine, channel, directory...? What IS it? Is it the pipe, or is it the stuff that's in the pipe?

For some time, Google and other search engines have been trying to have it both ways when they confront internet complaints. For the purposes of copyright and defamation suits, they claim "We're not a media company--we're just a conduit. Don't come to us if we highly rank a site you find objectionable--we're just the infrastructure. Go to the source." But when they hide behind the shield of Tornillo in these rankings cases, they openly claim to be just like a media outlet. They allege that any effort to regulate would violate their editorial discretion--a discretion they claim is well-nigh impossible in the case of eliminating defamatory or infringement-inducing websites from highly ranked results.

Very good questions and a great articulation of the conundrum.
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