Internet search engine Google has been discreetly removing over 100 controversial sites from some search result listings on its German and French websites, according to a study from Harvard University's Berkman Center.
The study found that listings for 113 websites that are anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi or related to white supremacy 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 the report posted this Tuesday on Harvard University's website.
Google, in Mountain View, California, could not immediately be reach for comment.
The Harvard study, conducted by assistant professor Jonathan Zittrain and law student Benjamin Edelman, used automated testing, conducted between 4 October 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 '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 removed from 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 websites.
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.