Ambitious prosecutors are now trying to shut down Internet pornographers by trying them in towns where conservative “community standards” make an obscenity conviction more likely. A novel defence now being tried in a Pensacola, Fla. obscenity case: Using Google Trends to prove that the town’s “community standards” are more prurient than prosecutors are willing to admit.
The idea: If Google proves that local residents search for “sex” more than they do for, well, anything else, then the defence can argue that Internet pornographers are just satisfying a local need, not corrupting innocent minds. We like this idea, though we’re dubious that the courts are going to go for it.
But suppose they do? Where then, according to Google, does an obscenity defendant stand the best chances? In other words: What city’s residents are most interested in looking up dirty stuff on the Web?
Google Trends says: Louisville, Kentucky.
We know! We were surprised, too — almost as surprised as we were to see neither New York City or San Francisco in our top 10. The full list:
The 10 American Cities Most Likely To Search For Obscene Material
- Louisville, KY
- Rochester, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Newark, NJ
- Los Angeles, CA
- Irvine, CA
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Las Vegas, NV
- Albany, NY
- Orlando, FL
Here’s how we got there: We used George Carlin’s (R.I.P.) “Seven Dirty Words” as obscenity proxies, and looked up each of them on Google Trends. We restricted the results to the United States, and noted the top 10 cities querying each of the seven words. Top scores went to cities that showed up on multiple lists; to break ties, we assigned weight values depending on a city’s rank on individual lists. Note that Google weights its own results to account for population: The cities listed above showed the greatest percentage of searchers looking for dirty words, not the greatest number of people. Want to see the raw data and our maths? Click here.
Again, we’re dubious that the courts are going to allow Google to stand in as an obscenity barometer anytime soon. But we’ll be keeping an eye on the Pensacola case. And if this does work, we expect to see a flood of Web porn companies heading for the Kentucky border.