More on the Popline Incident

From CBS News, here are details of how a librarian discovered the 'global gag rule' removing the word abortion from the Popline ("population information online" ) database.

Gloria Won, a librarian at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, was one of those who sent e-mails to POPLINE administrators after having trouble with searches.

Won got this response from POPLINE administrator Debra L. Dickson: "Yes, we did make a change to POPLINE. We recently made all abortion words stop words. As a federally funded project, we decided this was best for now."

A "stop word" is a word that a search engine ignores; typically they are common words such as "a," "the" and "is."

Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Association, applauded the actions of Dr. Michael J. Klag, the dean of the Bloomberg school, who ordered the word abortion restored to the db, saying the restriction denied "researchers, students and individuals on all sides of the issue access to accurate scientific information."


It is intersting to note that most search engines will include a stop word if there is a plus sign placed in front of it, or if it is placed in quotes either by itself or as a phrase. (Of course the phrase must appear exactly as written when in quotation marks).

So this might help librarians navigate around these obstacles the next time some idiot tries to hide information from us.