Monday, September 27, 2010

Sacre Bleu! Another European Court Sticks It to Google

Google France signImage by nitot via Flickr
Mountain View, Calif.-based uber-search engine Google and chief executive Eric Schmidt have wound up on wrong end of a defamation lawsuit in a French court, Agence France Presse ("AFP") reports.

The court ordered Google to pay nominal damages of one euro ($1.34) and to take remedial measures to ensure its conduct not be repeated.  Google was also assessed 5,000 euros ($6,719) of the plaintiff's court costs, which the company is expected to appeal. 

Google's woes involve its Suggest function, which offers options when terms are typed into it. The case, which  is reported at the Web site (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris 17eme chambre Judgment du 8 septembre 2010 M. X.../Google Inc., Eric S. et Google France), involved a plaintiff convicted of corruption of a minor appealing a three-year prison term, according to AFP.  When the plaintiff entered his name, the Google Suggest function purportedly elicited the words "rapist" and "satanist." Linkage of the plaintiff's name to those terms was deemed defamatory by the court.

Google is arguing that it did not initiate  those words in its Suggest function, but rather, the function yields the most common terms associated in the past with the term entered in the search. Google has previously found other European courts unfriendly, such as the Italian court that found Google liable in a criminal invasion of privacy matter (See"TUOL" post 2/25/2010).
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