There is a repeating pattern in online defamation cases against Google. An individual’s reputation is alleged to be tarnished by Google’s search results or its autocomplete feature. The individuals plead with Google for help. As one of the Internet’s most important gatekeepers, Google is in a position to stop the damage, especially because its algorithms are the source of it. Google refuses to help, or does so only partially. Courts rule against Google finding it a publisher, at least once it has notice. Google, appeals the decision, apparently unconcerned about the damages its search services cause to members of the public or the financial and emotional costs of litigating against one of the planet’s richest companies. Google loses the appeal.
Archive for the ‘defamation’ category
Is Google liable for defamation for not removing defamatory information in search results? Is Google liable for defamation as a secondary publisher by including hyperlinks to a website that contains defamatory materials when the hyperlink is included in search results? Finally, is Google liable for defamation when its Autocomplete and Related Search features produce suggested search inquires that are defamatory? According to the recent decision of an Australian Court in Duffy v Google Inc.,  SASC 170 (27 October 2015), yes to all, at least once Google has received notice of these activities and fails to stop them within a reasonable period of time.
You know a defamation case is going to be a good one when it starts like this:
Political debate in the Internet blogosphere can be, and, often is, rude, aggressive, sarcastic, hyperbolic, insulting, caustic and/or vulgar. It is not for the faint of heart. This case is an action in defamation involving political bloggers on the Internet.
The case is Baglow v. Smith, 2015 ONSC 1175. One of the issues in the case was whether the moderator of a message board who does not remove defamatory content is liable as a publisher for defamation purposes.
Last week the UK Court of Appeal in Tamiz v Google Inc  EWCA Civ 68 (14 February 2013) ruled that Google, as the host of the Blogger.com site, had potential liability for defamation by failing to take down or disable access to defamatory content once it receives notice that it is hosting such content.
Is a search engine liable for publishing defamatory materials that are assembled for the first time in an automated manner by its programmed computers? In the recent Australian case Trkulja v Google Inc LLC & Anor (No 5)  VSC 533 (12 November 2012), a jury found Google liable. The trial judge confirmed the jury’s ruling holding that search engines are publishers for the purposes of defamation law when their computers produce and put together search results in accordance with their intended operation.