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Google’s Orkut Porn Headache

Orkut has become a focal point of Brazilian courts over alleged pornography.

Search giant Google’s U.S. arm insisted Friday that it’s cooperating after Google Brazil was told a day earlier by a Brazilian federal judge that it would face heavy fines if it did not divulge information on users of the search giant’s popular social networking site Orkut.

“Google Inc. has complied with all orders issued to it. There has not been a single case that has not been responded to,” Google said in a statement on its court filing. “Child pornography is disgusting and illegal and we will not tolerate such content on Orkut.”

Federal Judge Jose Marcos Lunardelli had ordered Google Brazil to give up information on users of the social networking site in order to identify people suspected of engaging in child pornography and perpetrating hate crimes within 15 days or face daily fines of $23,000.

Judge Lunardelli issued his order after prosecutors had charged that Google ignored repeated requests for information.

Google fired back with a motion requesting clarification.

“The decision of the court is misdirected. It referred to the Google service rather than the Orkut service,” Google said in its response.

The search giant also said that it had complied with all requests, adding that the decision implies that there are court orders over which Google Brazil is in contempt.

“The decision did not specify which orders we have allegedly not complied with,” Google said in its response. It also said that the order was invalid because civil courts cannot determine matters relating to the compliance of orders issued by criminal courts.

Google: Wrong Venue

Google continues to contend that Judge Lunardelli is “misdirected.” Google representatives said the judge’s order referred to the Google service rather than the Orkut service. Furthermore, Google maintains that its Brazil office is a local sales office for the parent company and is separate from the Orkut unit.

“User information for is managed by Google Inc., headquartered in the United States, which owns the Orkut service,” Google said in a statement.

Google said it filed a petition last week with Brazilian courts asking them to appoint an independent expert to verify that Google Brazil does not maintain the Orkut user information being sought. It said that Google Brazil does not host the database or information pertaining to Orkut users.

By contrast, the search giant said that Brazilian federal courts in Sao Paulo address requests and orders to Google Inc., in the U.S., and as a result they have promptly received data in response to at least 20 criminal court orders, and the company has preserved data in more than 70 others.

“We have already produced data in response to many criminal court orders issued by Brazilian courts that are addressed to Google Inc. and served on its counsel in Brazil, including numerous orders requesting data about persons being investigated for alleged distribution of child pornography,” Google said in the statement.

Google’s Orkut social networking site is wildly popular among Brazilians. The site has also been a hit with Brazilian’s living in the United States who want to connect with friends and family back home. But the site has also come under attack with reports that it has become a haven for drug-dealing operations and other crimes.

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