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French court convicts Google and boss of defamation
Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 1:15 pm on Sep 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

A Paris court has convicted US search engine giant Google and its chief executive Eric Schmidt of defamation over results from its "suggest" function, a French legal affairs website has revealed.

The new function, which suggests options as you type in a word, brought up the words "rapist" and "satanist" when the plaintiff's name was typed into the search engine, legalis.net reported.

The court concluded that the search engine's linking his name to such words was defamatory.

The statement said that the Google Suggest function simply reflected the most common terms used in the past with words entered, so it was not Google itself that was making the suggestions.
[google.com...]

 

Trav

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:30 am on Sep 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is terrible - eventually we won't be able to do or say anything without offending someone somewhere, and then what? Google isn't making a claim about WHAT IS with search suggestions; they're making a SUGGESTION about what you MIGHT MEAN. If you didn't mean to type that, then don't click it, and move on. How is that hard?

Furthermore, the algorithm (you're right, this was written by a person or persons), when functioning as intended, derives it's suggestions by evaluating the terms we are already using. As such, if anyone defamed this man (and I don't think anyone did) it would be the searching public and/or the traditional press.

There are much better things to sue Google for, like for example, having a monopoly on search advertising.

Demaestro

WebmasterWorld Senior Member demaestro us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 1:28 am on Sep 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google isn't making a claim about WHAT IS with search suggestions; they're making a SUGGESTION about what you MIGHT MEAN. If you didn't mean to type that, then don't click it, and move on. How is that hard?


Don't bother, evidently this concept is too complicated for people here to grasp. Apparently Google isn't suggesting search terms they are making accusations and assertions.

People here applauding the decision can't even express in words how Google defamed this person despite that being the charge.

As already stated, it is not "simply a suggestion to search". It would have been if I am suggested to search BEFORE I type anything in the search box! But this is not the case! You're suggested DURING my typing and even after I hit the "Search" button. This is something very, very different from a "simple suggestion to search".

I know what I'm searching for. Why do you think I'm an idiot and suggest me what to search instead AFTER I hit the "Search" button?


Irony alert... you say it isn't a search suggestion and then go on to complain about when it makes suggestions.... if it isn't making suggestions why are you complaining about when and how it makes suggestions and then say it isn't making suggestions.

What does that have to do with defamation? Do you really believe those suggestions are assertions?

wildbest

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 5:57 am on Sep 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google isn't making a claim about WHAT IS with search suggestions; they're making a SUGGESTION about what you MIGHT MEAN.

I MIGHT MEAN everything! Why is Google suggesting exactly THAT?

Irony alert... you say it isn't a search suggestion and then go on to complain about when it makes suggestions...

Did I say it isn't a search suggestion?! Where? What I said is it's something more than just a "simple search suggestion".

Do you really believe those suggestions are assertions?


Why do you mention assertion so often? This term has several meanings. Which one do you mean?

- Assertion (computing), a computer programming technique
- Logical assertion, logical assertion of a statement
- Patent assertion, the enforcement of patent rights, usually by litigation against an infringing party
- Assertions (auditing), used in the context of a financial statement audit
- Assertions are also a kind of speech act.


Please note how Google behave AFTER searching is finished (Search button hit)! What they say is:

"Showing results for [black]. Search instead for [white]"

Again, this is not just a simple suggestion. This is a distinct and straightforward ADVICE! If you give wrong advice to people, no doubt, you should be held responsible for criminal behavior.

BeeDeeDubbleU

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 6:23 am on Sep 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Don't bother, evidently this concept is too complicated for people here to grasp. Apparently Google isn't suggesting search terms they are making accusations and assertions.

You seem to be implying that those of us who agree with this decision are stupid and incapable of thinking for ourselves on this.

You should remember that was google found guilty of defamation in a court of law. Do you consider yourself to be smarter and more capable of good judgement than the court who made this ruling?

onepointone

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 7:22 am on Sep 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Interesting, I can kind of see both sides of this...

When I search, Google doesn't even say 'suggestions', the words just pop up in a box.

If you lead someone to negative information or opinion, are you guilty of defamation? does everybody understand 'suggestions'?

The closest parallel for a webmaster might be, say I have an otherwise innocuous article about 'so and so'.

But at the top of the page, say I have hyperlinks titled 'so and so child molester' etc.

Sgt_Kickaxe

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 9:59 am on Sep 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

If you lead someone to negative information or opinion, are you guilty of defamation? does everybody understand 'suggestions'?


If you lead my 9 year old anywhere you'll have more than a defamation suit on your hands. Right now Google is no longer kid friendly. You can't guide a child on which query to use or link to click anymore, the words pop on the screen live. like I said earlier, even a simple word like Saturday has to pass by Satanism first now, not good.

McSpike

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 1:56 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Unbelievable how easy it is to trick WEBMASTERS to not see through the bull.

Google is just a website.

If I write Mr. XY is a rapist (really charged for raping a child) on my blog, everything is fine. Everyone knows the guy's name, so there's nothing like revealing the identity going on here. But if a website like Google does this and mind it's all automated suggestions, then we should go after it because it's Google who is the allmighty authority and moral police and whatnot - almost God-like. Google in this case to you the webmaster is not just a website, a simple chunk of code hosted somewhere just like your own website. No... to some of you Google is the alpha and omega to look up to and to judge and go after in courts for stupidity... Again. If you put the name of the guy online on your blog it would be fine for you and for everyone else. But if Google does it it has to take responsibility for it, because we look upon what's posted on its website?

Insane.

Once again: Google is a website. Repeat after me. A Website.

Just like yours.

McSpike

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 2:03 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

You seem to be implying that those of us who agree with this decision are stupid and incapable of thinking for ourselves on this.

You should remember that was google found guilty of defamation in a court of law. Do you consider yourself to be smarter and more capable of good judgement than the court who made this ruling?


You seem to be implying that the courts are always capable of making fair rulings. You yourself are again implying that you agree with this decision because of lack of common sense (or the way you define it: being stupid). Ever heard the saying: "There's no justice in court"?

You think courts seek for justice? Courts just decide based on the system that is put up. Whether that the end result is justice is not the matter.

You think the system protects you in some way by default? You need to experience life before judging court decisions. Stupid.

McSpike

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 2:07 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

There are much better things to sue Google for, like for example, having a monopoly on search advertising.


Exactly. And for playing #*$!s and giggles (for a good economic reason) with copyrighted material on their Images results.

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 6:04 pm on Sep 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

[rant]

This reinforces two mind boggling truths...

1) French courts are epically clueless when it comes to tech.

2) WWers have no common sense when it comes to Google. So many people want to see them take a hit that they will delude themselves into believing that any hit they take is justified... even when it is a precedent that can potentially hurt smaller websites.

Yes, the algo isn't perfect. No algo is. Lets put the CEOs of MSN, Yahoo and Amazon in jail while we're at it. Startup search engines with buggy new suggestion algos? Jail!

But the funny thing here is that in this instance Google showed completely accurate information about someone who was indeed a child molester using a straightforward suggestion algorithm much like any other search engine would come up with to complete the same task.

Only in France.

[/rant]

cien

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:00 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Demaestro, you are missing the point here. You are getting all emotional and not being rational. Google is publishing content nobody (the users who wrote it) authorized to be published. Users used search to find content. Google wrote a program to show internal data, the search suggestions. Google is responsible for any issues arising from those suggestions. There is no blaming the users here for the content. Google took the extra step of developing a program to publish internal data nobody authorized them in the first place to publish. There is a precedent here in the US too. I just can't remember the case. It had to do with the content of a dropdown box on a registration form on some site I think.

I support 100% the Frenchies. We have to be fair. It's like WebmasterWorld publishing, on the right hand side of the page, keywords used to access this site. If some moron searches on Google for "cien likes to play with Barbies" site:webmasterworld.com LOL! guess who would be liable if they don't take it down when requested? The publisher ole WebmasterWorld. I'm sure Google was probably asked to remove the suggestion and Google probably said "I can't hear nothing!". So anyway, Google is the publisher and they should be held liable. You can't be selective on this.

Whether the guy was a child molester or not I don't know. Haven't read or know anything about the case.

Demaestro

WebmasterWorld Senior Member demaestro us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:51 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

cien

I am the one missing the point?


It's like WebmasterWorld publishing, on the right hand side of the page, keywords used to access this site. If some moron searches on Google for "cien likes to play with Barbies" site:webmasterworld.com LOL!


#*$! does any of that have to do with a defamation of character suit? It isn't like that at all.

Here I will keep you on point.

In what way did Google defame this man?

Do you consider yourself to be smarter and more capable of good judgement (sic) than the court who made this ruling?


Yes I do, and the judge who gave Stella money for hot coffee in her lap... and many other judges who make bad decisions about technology they don't understand.

Maybe I am the dumb one, maybe I should look at those suggestions and take them as assertions.

Typing in "LA kings win s"

Brings up the suggestion LA kings win Stanley cup... Interesting since they have never won it.

Because of that search suggestion should I now think that the LA kings have won a Stanley cup?

No I don't. The reason?

I know it wasn't a factoid it was a search suggestion. Looking at the search results gives me the facts, the items in that drop down box are SUGGESTIONS TO SEARCH NOT ASSERTIONS! To defame someone you have to make an assertion/accusation about them.

[edited by: Demaestro at 1:06 am (utc) on Sep 30, 2010]

cien

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:57 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

In what way did Google defame this man? First it was established by a court of law whether the statement, the suggestion, the search term, whatever in itself was false or not. Whether it was defamation or not. It obviously was defamation! The next phase would be, who was responsible for publishing the content. Google. PERIOD. On top of that Google didn't remove the content when requested, which makes them more liable. Let's note here that in this case they ARE the PUBLISHER NOT the MEDIUM!

This is not about "suggestions" or "assertions" but about who was the one responsible for the publishing of the defamatory content and that was ole GOOGLE! Let's not look for the 5th leg of that cat here. There ain't one! Oh wait, there is this cat on youtube :-)

Sorry Demaestro, you da man! I'm out! I'm crawling back under that rock! Too hungry for this.

cien

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 2:07 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

And sorry, I meant "It WOULD be like Webmasterworld publishing, on the right hand side......" instead of "It's like WebmasterWorld publishing, on the right hand side..." WebmasterWorld doesn't do that.

rhcerff



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 6:57 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I can't believe that a court actually came to this conclusion. I'm interested if this will filter down to any of the websites that include content that matches that "suggested search".

If anyone believes that a search suggestion is a fact, then really they should have one Stella Award and should no doubt be in training for a Darwin Award!

BeeDeeDubbleU

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 7:38 am on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I know it wasn't a factoid it was a search suggestion. Looking at the search results gives me the facts, the items in that drop down box are SUGGESTIONS TO SEARCH NOT ASSERTIONS! To defame someone you have to make an assertion/accusation about them.


Let's forget this particularly emotive case for a moment and consider the fact that people are being associated with the contents of the suggestion box by Google's technology. If that content is defamatory then Google is guilty of defamation.

wildbest

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 1:53 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google is not a search engine anymore. Now they are a suggestion engine! Kinda fortune teller looking into the crystal ball...

Conclusion:
If you don't know what you're searching for, try Google help you figure out. If you know what you're searching for, go to Bing. You'll save time and eye pain.

Philosopher

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 2:15 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think what most people are forgetting here is that France has a very different legal system than many of us are accustomed to.

Within the framework of France's legal system, the verdict was pretty much what you would expect.

Regardless how you look at them, the Search Suggestions are a form of a statement. They can easily influence the thoughts and beliefs of the person being presented with the suggestion.

In this case, the suggestion was a negative one about the individual. 100% true or not, it was negative.

The issue here is that, in France, from what I have read, the person/entity making the defamatory statements has the burden of proof on THEM to PROVE the statements being made are 100% true, or if the matter is of public importance that they conducted serious investigation before making the statement.

That's the issue, since this was an auto-generated statement, Google could not have done any serious investigation and Google could not prove 100% that the statements they were making about the gentleman were true especially seeing how, according to the referenced article, the sentence for corruption of a minor was not yet definite.

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 4:18 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

The court awarded damages of one euro, and ordered Google to pay 5,000 euros towards the plaintiffs costs. Depending on what his actual costs were the plaintiff might well be out of pocket, and, at best, he is one euro better off.

cien

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 5:26 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

The lawsuits will start to rain soon. The sharks know exactly where the blood is at now.

BeeDeeDubbleU

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 5:49 pm on Sep 30, 2010 (gmt 0)

Regardless how you look at them, the Search Suggestions are a form of a statement. They can easily influence the thoughts and beliefs of the person being presented with the suggestion.


I agree and you explained it well. :)

wallarookiller

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 11:58 am on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't get the argument. Use the search engine with their terms or don't. It's that simple...

rhcerff



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:23 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't get the argument. Use the search engine with their terms or don't. It's that simple...


In order to be defamed, I don't have to be the one doing the search. Although, I wonder if Google has mentioned anywhere in their TOS that suggest is just that and not a fact or an opinion shared by Google? That might be an interesting point.

I'd still like to know if this guy has decided to try and sue any website that might be accusing him of what Google's suggest has simply hinted at?

wildbest

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:34 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Use the search engine with their terms or don't. It's that simple...

You can do whatever you like if you have the 'right' ToS... Is that what you say?

BeeDeeDubbleU

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 12:54 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't get the argument. Use the search engine with their terms or don't. It's that simple..

It's not that simple. If John or Jane Doe is searching for a company or a person's name and Google suggests that company or name along with words like paedophile, fraudster or scammer what is the person doing the search supposed to make of that?

I know that when I see suggestions like this I assume that it means that Google knows many people have been searching for it so there is almost certainly some foundation in it. In other words Google has suggested to me that "Acme widgets sucks" or whatever. It's Google that is doing the suggestion so it's Google that has to be accountable.

wheel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member wheel us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 2:40 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Brings up the suggestion LA kings win Stanley cup... Interesting since they have never won it.

Because of that search suggestion should I now think that the LA kings have won a Stanley cup?

Since I don't know anything about hockey, I might actually think that they had won the stanley cup and go look at some search results to find out when.

See? Google's making connections that aren't neccessarily true, and users are acting on that.

Of course that's the crux of the matter, how much Google's responsible for it's search suggestions. It's somewhere between not at all and completely. Google's normally pretty teflon on taking any responsibility for anything it does or any impacts it has.

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 4:27 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Of course that's the crux of the matter, how much Google's responsible for it's search suggestions. It's somewhere between not at all and completely. Google's normally pretty teflon on taking any responsibility for anything it does or any impacts it has.


That may be the crux of the matter to you personally, because it's something you want to see.

But it sure looks like the actual crux, in this particular conviction, is that a web entity was penalized for something an automated process did, even though it happened to be 100% correct.

What was really on trial here, even if the court was too ignorant to realize it, was the ability to use an automated algo to suggest things a user may want to try.

As I mentioned earlier, there's nothing in Google's suggestion engine that isn't a relatively straightforward solution to the problem. Similar code is going to exist in the suggestion feature at any large search engine.

And what's wrong with it? It's a logical feature that has value to users. People understand it's not stating a fact. The few that are so completely clueless about technology that they take an alternate search suggestion as a statement of fact are certainly not a good reason to get rid of a valuable feature for everyone else?

I highly doubt anyone would be screaming defamation if the same algo was running at any other site.

If you can be sued for defamation for something done by neutral piece of code, written with no bias whatsoever, then where does that end? Exactly what kind of website can still afford to exist?

The end result of these kinds of cases, were they to become law, is always that a website needs an army of human editors to police their algos, defeating the purpose of automation and making entry into pretty much any web market impossible for a startup.

Fortunately this is only France, where the courts would put the whole internet in timeout if they could :-)

Philosopher

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 4:44 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

But it sure looks like the actual crux, in this particular conviction, is that a web entity was penalized for something an automated process did, even though it happened to be 100% correct.


Actually, as mentioned, according to the law in France, for Google to make that suggestion/statement, it has to PROVE it is 100% correct. If it can't, it doesn't matter if it's automated or not, it's illegal.

I'm getting pretty tired of the "it's an algo so we aren't responsible" excuse. An algo starts with a human programmer and is continually refined by a human programmer. It is the product of a human programmer and should be held to the same laws as...a human programmer.

Demaestro

WebmasterWorld Senior Member demaestro us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 4:51 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google's making connections that aren't neccessarily (sic) true,


No they aren't, they are suggesting you search for something that isn't true, you have to make the connection yourself by actually reading the results, and if you take time to read the results you will see that they haven't won the Stanley cup.

Are people getting so lazy they don't even read the results of their searches anymore? They just see search suggestion and think they have found their answer?

It was pointed out elsewhere

Type the letters "micro" in the search box, and the first suggestion that comes up is "Microsoft," not because Google loves Microsoft -- Google doesn't, they're deadly competitors -- but because "Microsoft" is what most people who type the letters "micro" are looking for.


Based on many other things I think it is clear that Google isn't endorsing or even making any claims implied by those suggestions.

[edited by: Demaestro at 5:00 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

BeeDeeDubbleU

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 4:55 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Are people getting so lazy they don't even read the results of their searches anymore? They just see search suggestion and think they have found their answer?


That has no bearing in this case.

Demaestro

WebmasterWorld Senior Member demaestro us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4207086 posted 5:01 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

That has no bearing in this case.


Yes it does because one would have to think Google is making an assertion to charge Google with defamation.

This 90 message thread spans 3 pages: < < 90 ( 1 [2] 3 > >
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