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October 20, 2014
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Opinion

Letter to the Editor: Google petition begins discussion

Thank you for the thoughtful editorial about the Active Minds petition. Your belief in its potential to save lives is appreciated. Your concerns demonstrate an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish and an awareness of the considerations that must be made in order to serve the best interests of all Google users.

I agree that censorship must be avoided. The petition, as written, doesn’t suggest that Google alter its algorithm in any way. While this was a possibility brought up in early meetings about the petition, it was decided that free speech did not need to be violated in our efforts to connect Google users to resources.

As a second point, the list of search terms is by no means final, and we are aware that building a comprehensive list is nearly impossible. Words related to self-harm, such as “cutting,” have a variety of other meanings with absolutely no connection to psychological crisis. Your example of “abuse” as a more complicated entry to the list is equally valid, and your suggestion of multiple “levels of distinction” is something to consider.

We consider the fact that our petition has opened a discussion around the relationship between the Internet and psychological crisis to be a sign of progress. We are especially appreciative of feedback that challenges the details of our own proposal toward creating something that is of even greater value to Google’s unrivaled base of users.

This is a conversation we hope to continue with the campus community, the mental health community and the vast community of stakeholders in our work to affect change online.