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Google Gets A Slap On The Wrist From The French High Court

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#1 glyn


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Posted 20 January 2011 - 10:11 AM

I don't know if anyone has been following the success and failure of the world's favourite search engine in Europe, but if you haven't been, let's just say there have been a few cases that have come to light in view of search,that I think make for interesting discussion. With difference to the US the EU has at least at first glance much stronger restraints regarding privacy and personal data. Whether in practice this is the case is another matter.

Last year I started seeing some intersting Google suggestions and did wonder whether we'd be seeing a case like this.....Here is the first. I am sure there will be many.

A Paris court of appeal has ruled against Google in a defamation case lodged by the Centre National Privé de Formation a Distance (CNFDI) in a suit which claimed the search engine's 'Suggest' feature linked the organisation to the word 'scam'.

The Mountain View giant has been ordered to take necessary measures to remove this suggestion from its search functions, according to French legal site Legalis.net.

Google, who first experienced litigation in these regards in France via a lawsuit from Direct Energie in May 2009, denied its liability due to the automatic nature of its Google Suggest function, citing the feature works as a result of algorithms and search queries, and without human tampering.

The feature, as its namesake implies, attempts to fill out the remainder of a user's query based on available page results.

Legalis reports, though, the court struck down this argument, as Google invites users to report on offensive or erroneous suggestions, and ones "that could offend", particularly "rude words, and words to incite hatred or violence."

The judges have concluded that the phrase "CNFDI arnaque" - translated as 'swindle' or 'scam' - falls under the umbrella of offensive, condemning the search giant.

The initial lawsuit filed by CNFDI resulted in a favourable ruling for Google, but the ensuing months had brought a decrease of interest in CNFDI and loss of revenue thereof, the company alleged, leading to a retrial and the current ruling.

Source: Big Mouth Media

So is it reasonable for Google to be put in this situation? Is it s case of their own success...if Google didn't have 90% market share of search, would anyone care?

Interested to hear your thoughts.


#2 jonbey


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Posted 20 January 2011 - 01:36 PM

Tricky isn't it. If someone posts a defamatory comment on a forum and they are asked to remove it, but do not, they can be sued. In a way the search suggestions reflect the thoughts / actions of the people. There is nobody that can be sued, other than the website itself. So they are responsible for the suggestions they provide on their site. In the same way to remove pornographic words they also need to remove words such as scam against business names, if they want to protect themselves. But maybe they prefer to let the system remain automated and keep a fund to defend themselves whenever required?

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