Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You (Auto)Complete Me: Google Runs Afoul of German Court

English: Office Building where Google Germany ...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Search engine colossus Google has once again run afoul of a court because of its "Suggestion" or algorithmic autocomplete function.

Germany's Federal Court of Justice in Karisruhe this week ruled that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is obligated to remove defamatory autocomplete content once it is notified, according to a post by the Jurist Web site ( The founder of a company that produces nutritional supplements alleged he was defamed because when his or his company's name was entered in a search in Google's German-language site, suggested links to fraud and  the controversial religion Scientology were part of the autocomplete results.

The Federal Court said search engine operators needn't routinely verify that autocomplete search results are error-free, but once apprised that suggested results unlawfully violate an individual's rights, the operators are legally bound to remove the offending material.

As chronicled by this blog, Google has previously been taken to task for autocomplete mishaps, including a Japanese court that ordered Google to pay $3,000 to a person who was wrongly linked to a crime he didn't commit (see "TUOL" post 4/17/13) and by a French court that assessed  $6,000 in attorneys' fees against Google when the suggestions of rapist and Satanist were associated with the entry of an unidentified plaintiff's name in a search (see "TUOL" post 9/27/10).

The staff of "TUOL" in its brush with high school math learned long ago that nothing good can come from an algorithm.
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