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Google cuts sites from French and German listings

Internet search engine company Google. has been discreetly removing over 100 controversial sites from some search result listings on its German and French Web sites, according to a study from Harvard University's Berkman Center.

The study found that listings for 113 Web sites that are anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi, or related to white supremacy groups have been either partially or fully removed from Google.fr and Google.de, though they are available on the US site, Google.com, according to a report posted Tuesday on Harvard University's Berkman Center Web site.

The Harvard study, conducted by assistant professor Jonathan Zittrain and law student Benjamin Edelman, used automated testing, conducted between 4 and 21 October, of Google's 2.5 billion page index to compare the results returned by different foreign-language versions.

The study found that among the banned sites are a "white pride" site, Stormfront.org, and a fundamentalist Christian site opposing abortion, Jesus-is-lord.com.

Testing revealed that 65 sites removed from German google.de were also not in French google.fr results with an additional 48 sites removed only from google.fr results.

Zittrain and Edelman point out that German and French Internet users can still circumvent such bans by simply conducting searches on Google.com.

German law forbids material that is considered to incite racial and ethnic hatred, including the publication of Holocaust denials. Similar laws exist in France. Both countries have been involved in high-profile cases in an attempt to get Internet providers to block access to offending US Web sites.

Last year, a French students' anti-racism group successfully sued Yahoo in a Paris court for allowing Third Reich memorabilia and Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf to be offered to French users of Yahoo's auction sites. In November, a US District Court judge dismissed a similar case brought against Yahoo in the US by French organisations, citing the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.

Google was not available for comment.

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