Man wins defamation case against Google over search results

googleA Pairs court has ruled in favor of a French man who sued the world’s largest online search engine, Google, for defamation.

The man got a suspended sentence for alleged crimes relating to the corruption of a minor.

Given extensive press coverage of the alleged crime at the time, querying the man’s name on the popular search engine returns web pages from news publications that suggested he was a “rapist”, among other non-favorable descriptions.

The man argues that the statements in the online articles still available today adversely characterize him, which puts him in a disadvantageous social position when meeting new people and applying for jobs, among other situations and opportunities.

 The man previously contacted Google directly to remove the defamatory articles from its search index, but the company did not do so arguing its proprietary algorithms simply return web pages in its index related to the keywords searched, that is, there is no direct human manipulation of top search results.

Google argues content creators, like publications, could opt not to have Google index selected web pages, in turn, they would not be returned in search results.

[poll id=”13″]

In this specific case, the publications probably do not have much of an incentive to block the articles from Google spiders, simply because they were reporting on happenings with information available at the time given the circumstances.

The French court sided with the plaintiff, agreeing that those representations were defamatory, and ruled Google could have mitigated costs to the plaintiff by removing the pages.

The ruling ordered Google to pay €100,000, and to reimburse €5,000 in litigation costs incurred by the plaintiff. The ruling also ordered the company to disassociate the man’s name from the defamatory characterizations in Google Suggest, which suggests popular phrases while a person enters search terms in the Google search-box prior to completing a search. Additionally, for every single day the defamatory information remains in the company’s search results, Google would be fined an additional €5,000.

Most interestingly, the French court specifically found Google chief executive Eric Schmidt liable for defamation because the court argues he has the power of making mitigating changes to the results.

Google says it would appeal the ruling since it does not have a direct responsibility for generated search results.

The additional €5,000 daily fine applies during the appeals process.

This is the first time Google has been found liable on such grounds in a court of law.

Similar claims in North America have not been successful in the past.


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Hercules holds a B.Comm Finance from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) level 3 candidate. He was previously a contributor at FiLife, a finance website owned by Dow Jones and IAC. Write to [email protected]
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  • http://www.careerfield.org Careerfield

    This is so dumb. I can’t believe they went in favor of this guy.

  • SC

    shouldn’t

  • AC

    Now this article will show up when you google his name, and it still says he’s a rapist.

    • TRK

      No it won’t; his name doesn’t appear on this page.

  • Teri

    should not have won**

  • Teri

    That’s ridiculous. The man should be suing the sources of the results, not google itself, and the man should not one. I’m sure google will win the appeal when they get to a smarter judge. Where’s google terms of use? shouldn’t that have come into play here?

    • GregB

      well, why should he even be able to sue the media? he was charged with the crimes at the time hence they reported what was happening – so what if the information is still available…that’s his fault.

  • Guest

    so if the same news articles were found in a library through electronic files or microfiche of something similar, would the court also rule against the library? aren’t google & the library essentially performing the same function here – acting as a news repository for the public? neither is passing judgement on the man, just aggregating information and passing it along for the public to make their own judgment…

  • TDCASH

    Whats dumb in it? For a multibillion dollar business like google its pocketchange.

    The faggot who won probably made like 2 years salary on this

    • Hellscreamgold

      Leave it to the lazy French to try and get money from someone.

      Their 30 days of paid vacation and 2 hour work weeks aren’t enough.

      Google should tell France to f-off – see what France will do. Even better, Google should tell France we’ll pay the money as soon as you extradite American criminals hiding in your crappy country.

  • http://twitter.com/seobro Seo Bro

    This man is a jack ass.

  • GoogleUser

    I hope many similar cases like this are brought against google. It is nearly impossible for an average person to have search engine results removed from google, even if they are obvious attacks by others, false,  and defamatory, however, google themselves have the sole ability to do so, but refuse unless its under extreme circumstances. They need to be held responsible for their actions just like any other media outlet, when causing damage to someones reputation and business.  Google needs to create steps for one to remove such content from their results, without having to go to court. Since this is ones only recourse, one also has to sue for court costs. This is a fair judgement in my view.

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  • http://slllc.org Deborah Chitester

    how can i obtain his contact info

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