Is Google, the operator of the world’s most popular search engine, a publisher entitled to the constitutional protections accorded to publishers of free speech? Or is Google a passive/neutral intermediary which has no control over what its search engine algorithms disseminate and which doesn’t publish the information in, or hyperlinked to, it’s search results? Google argues it is and is not a publisher, depending on which position will best exonerate it from legal demands including court orders that it de-index URLs and websites from which illegal content is made available.
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.