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Google Sued for Libel After Man Ego Surfs

 4:10 pm on Mar 21, 2004 (gmt 0)


...he was told by friends and family that typing "Mark Maughan" into a Google search engine delivered "alarming, false, misleading and injurious results" about him and the business.

Girardi wants a court order to prevent Google from using PageRank. He said members of a class action could include anyone also allegedly libeled by the search engine.



 11:41 pm on Mar 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

All kinds of new issues that come up out of this one.

- serps as editorial content. No one has ever sued a search engine purely on the grounds of the serps themselvs. If you search for "poison chicken" and the local chicken resturant site turns up, is that libel? That is part of this suit.

- Delayed listings. The information that the gentlman found on google was *not* on the serp listed site.

Google maintained it was not responsible and said the state board was responsible, even though the offending information did not appear on the state board site, the suit states.


 12:08 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

From my local paper and I live in the same geographical area as Maughan,

"The state board correctly reported that Maughan failed to pay his dues on time, the lawsuit said."

It sounds like Maughan's failure to pay his dues was on the state site. If there were a number of other firms with problems all on one page, I can see how google SERPS which bring up somewhat random content could bring up somebody elses information in a way that looks as though it was applicable to him.

Another quote from the article,
"The lawsuit charges that PageRank system created by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin pulled information from the state board's Web site, but changed the context and reformatted it, attributing incorrect information to "individuals to whom the disciplinary information does not apply."



 12:33 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

LOL - he didn't like his snippet.

Seen it a bunch of times in name searches, it probably showed the sentence containing someone else's name that was also "Mark" on the same page with some sort of disciplinary or criminal action and said that was the match for his full name, so in the SERP it appears that he was the one that had received the censure (or whatever it was).


 12:35 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yes, of course the most respectable company on the internet's out to get a select few people. Oh, you know it's true. They take those results and twist them into exactly the same content as seen on the page to help people know where the keywords were found.

Next they'll sue every search engine in the world, and every site with a meta-tag with keywords in it for having keywords in them.

If the state took this seriously, they'd have to confirm that I was born April 17, 1929, and lived in a different state from when I was born on April 9, 1922 and lived in Jacksonville and that I've died twice and lived in 2 places at once for quite a while. (Note that I live in Canada). Oh wait, what was posted about him was true.


 12:42 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

"reformats information obtained from accurate sources, resulting in changing of the context in which information is presented."

From what I gather it is about how the snippets are presented in the SERPs. If so, what are the "..." between keyword chunks, chopped liver? If the summary is to be read as one non-stop sentence, people could make Google summaries say almost anything about anyone.


 12:47 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)



I think this'll be an easy case for them to win.


 1:59 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

How ignorant of this guy, and his attorney, to assume PageRank is responsible for his name coming up in serps. I imagine his name uncommon enough that it would come up in any serp, with or without the aid of PageRank. Give me a break. Google is not responsible for his misfortune, and I trust that any insightful court will see it that way too.


 2:03 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

In Googles defence a search for firstname lastname is an "any" search unless he used "firstname lastname" (in quotes) so it is likely that an any match would find the first or last name and other snipets from the page that may or may not be asscosated with the person.



 4:11 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

They are probably naming PageRank in this suit because in the SearchKing lawsuit where Google "asserted it is immune from tort liability arising out of the devaluation because PageRanks constitute protected speech" If Google considers PageRank speech, then along with that is the potential for libel.


 6:10 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Personally I would have targeted the Google cache not Page Rank......maybe another agenda "in-play" here, or just a total failure to understand how Google works?

>Delayed listings. The information that the gentlman found on google was *not* on the serp listed site.

That is an interesting one. Google displaying out of date and potentially libelous info that has since been removed. The original offender is mitigated but Google is still is the "guilty zone"?


 10:59 am on Mar 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

Both the Google 'ransom note' and the cache issue have each raised concerns before:

Google Ransom Note - Causing Some Grief [webmasterworld.com]

But combine the two together, as appears to have happened in this case, and maybe an action like this was inevitable? btw - I love the relevance of the term 'ransom note' in the current context. Wonder if that will ever make it to court?


 11:51 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

There definitly is defamation of Mr. Maughan charater in this case...

...the problem is it was done by Mr. Maughan himself by filing this suite.

Some people are so afraid that someone might think them a fool, that they open their mouths and prove it!

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