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French court convicts Google and boss of defamation
Brett_Tabke




msg:4207088
 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...]

 

Demaestro




msg:4210072
 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.

wheel




msg:4210073
 5:03 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

"The computer did it" isn't an excuse that anyone other than Homer Simpson would be using.

You made the computer do it, you're responsible. Sorry, you're operating the tool deliberately, you're responsible.

Demaestro




msg:4210075
 5:07 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

The computer did it" isn't an excuse


What exactly did the computer do in this case?

Did the computer accuse someone of being a molester or did a computer suggest that someone search for someone being a molester?

In my opinion the computer did the latter and therefor doesn't qualify for defamation.

Obviously we disagree but I am not arguing they are innocent becuase a computer did it. I am arguing they are innocent because the computer didn't do make an accusation or assertion.

IanKelley




msg:4210080
 5:17 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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.


This is exactly the same kind of incomplete view of tech that makes French courts such a joke. Virtually everything on the web is run by code and that code, almost without exception, is capable of doing unintended things. No amount of tweaking, updating and editing is going to change that.

This is espectially true of any code that parses and interprets data from external sources (essentially 100% of what was once hyped as Web 2.0 and now represents the majority of net services people use). It's silly to expect code to be responsible for interpretations based on data sources it cannot control.

This is the reality of the internet. You may not like it, but without it virtually everything you do online would be impossible.

It would be different if Google was ignoring a long standing problem with the suggestion engine, or if their the algo was written in a such way that there was bias towards defamatory implications. But this is absolutely not the case.

The idea that people are so stupid that they would interpret what is clearly an automated suggestion feature, similar to what has been incorporated into the OSes they've been using since childhood, as factual information that they should believe without research... is so absurd that I am sincerely baffled by many of the replies in this thread.

This isn't 1990 anymore... computers have been a part of our lives for the better part of a century, even our grandparents understand them better than the court in question.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4210090
 5:48 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Virtually everything on the web is run by code and that code, almost without exception, is capable of doing unintended things.

I agree and when it goes wrong someone is always responsible.

The idea that people are so stupid that they would interpret what is clearly an automated suggestion feature, similar to what has been incorporated into the OSes they've been using since childhood, as factual information that they should believe without research... is so absurd that I am sincerely baffled by many of the replies in this thread.


I am also baffled by those of you who cannot understand that when Google does this people will naturally assume that the suggestions that are listed are relevant to the subject, good or bad. You may consider that people like me and the millions of others who do this are stupid but that does not make you right.

Also, given the deficiencies in the justice systems in the USA and to a lesser extent the UK I am very surprised that you guys are so critical of the French.

wildbest




msg:4210140
 7:34 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

The few that are so completely clueless about technology that they take an alternate search suggestion as a statement of fact...

They are not few. They are the majority now.

Real fact of life...

A medic, a friend of mine, contacted me for he has trouble trying to publish the second article on his blog created recently with blogspot. Someone else helped him create Google account and publish the first one.

- What is the url of your blog?
- Pardon? It is on Google.
- The domain name? What is the address of your blog with blogspot?
- ...?! Well, you search 'doctor + my name' on Google and here you are! My address is the second one!

This was an eye opener for me!

Majority of web users don't know what is url and what is domain name. They don't type on the browser address bar. They use Google as Bookmarks/Favorites folder! By 'search suggestions' Google is abusing their behavior trying to divert them to more competitive search term and more expensive adwords ads respectively. That's it. It's all about $$$. Google is not unbiased search engine. Not anymore.

IanKelley




msg:4210162
 8:28 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Majority of web users don't know what is url and what is domain name. They don't type on the browser address bar. They use Google as Bookmarks/Favorites folder! By 'search suggestions' Google is abusing their behavior trying to divert them to more competitive search term and more expensive adwords ads respectively. That's it. It's all about $$$. Google is not unbiased search engine. Not anymore.


What does people's understanding of what a domain name is have to do with search suggestions?

What does your opinion about the economics of Google's search suggestions (and how they effect traffic to your websites) have to do with a defamation lawsuit in France?

This seems to be what many posters are really talking about in this thread... not the French case, which truly makes no sense, but their own personal issues with Google.

Demaestro




msg:4210178
 8:50 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

baffled by those of you who cannot understand that when Google does this people will naturally assume that the suggestions that are listed are relevant to the subject, good or bad


Well at least we are identifying our points of contest.

I understand just fine that people will assume that, what I don't understand is how you hold Google legally responsible for people's incorrect assumptions.

By 'search suggestions' Google is abusing their behavior trying to divert them to more competitive search term and more expensive adwords ads respectively. That's it. It's all about $$$. Google is not unbiased search engine. Not anymore.


Sure I agree, but that has NOTHING to do with supporting a charge of defamation of character, nor does it have any relevance to the topic at hand.

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4210183
 9:09 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

We should close this now.

cien




msg:4210187
 9:12 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

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?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?"


You just don't understand an iota of what's going on in this case and you call others who do, clueless and stupid? That's sweet. The world doesn't work the way you view it. There are laws for a reason. Who cares about it being a valuable feature. It won't be illegal to keep the tool, but they need to be held responsible for whatever issues arise from the content it displays, as they are the PUBLISHER. They developed a TOOL to show search suggestions

The idea that people are so stupid that they would interpret what is clearly an automated suggestion feature, similar to what has been incorporated into the OSes they've been using since childhood


Apples and oranges. Local Vs Internet for everyone to see. Anyway, it's not about the "automated suggestion". It's about Google displaying internal data without authorization from the user and not taking responsibility from it. Whether the killer used a knife or a gun is irrelevant.

is so absurd that I am sincerely baffled by many of the replies in this thread.


:)

How would you like to see "[your name here] that lives on [ADDRESS HERE] is a pedophile" being suggested as a search term? Do you know the devastation that'd bring into your life if you are innocent? All it takes is some moron running a bot with that phrase on Google and tada, you are well done.

[edited by: cien at 9:35 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

cien




msg:4210190
 9:17 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I understand just fine that people will assume that, what I don't understand is how you hold Google legally responsible for people's incorrect assumptions.


I don't know in France but in the US, Google is the publisher so they are liable as hell just like we are for the content posted on this forum.

Demaestro




msg:4210193
 9:30 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I don't know in France but in the US, Google is the publisher so they are liable as hell just like we are for the content posted on this forum.


Actually you don't know about in the US either because you got it wrong.

In the US automated processes that publish content are not subject to the same rules as content published by humans. This has been decided in courts in the usa on a few different issues.

By the way... what do think Google published? I didn't read about them publishing anything, I only read about them making a search term suggestion... is that considered a publication now?

IanKelley




msg:4210196
 9:32 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

You just don't understand an iota of this case and you call others who do, clueless?


No, it was very clear that I was calling a search engine user who was unable to tell an alternate search suggestion from an assertion of fact clueless.

No one was calling you clueless...

cien




msg:4210203
 9:39 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Actually you don't know about in the US either because you got it wrong.


Ok.

In the US automated processes that publish content are not subject to the same rules as content published by humans.


Rules or laws? Anyway, where exactly did you get that from? That's not true at all. The "automated processes that publish content" comes from a tool developed by someone. In the eyes of the law and in this particular case, that someone is a publisher, not a medium. Users never authorized Google to display their searches to others; therefore, taking all responsibility for the content it publishes. The search suggestions are internal data Google chose to display to others on its own. Anyway, this case is not about "automated content" or "automated processes" Demaestro. This is about who is the publisher of the defamatory material and that's google. This is not about the tool used to commit the murder but who is the murderer.

This has been decided in courts in the usa on a few different issues.


You are confused. You are talking about a totally different thing here. I bet the issues in contention in those cases had nothing to do even remotely with the issue being discussed here.

By the way... what do think Google published? I didn't read about them publishing anything, I only read about them making a search term suggestion... is that considered a publication now?


It has always been. Your eyes can see the suggestions, cant' they? You don't have to read it Demaestro. By Google displaying content, they are publishing.

Look, don't get me wrong. I like the feature fine and dandy. It's a very useful tool but the law is the law. We can't be selective on this. Google is the publisher and they should be held liable for the content it publishes, just like we are when we write a defamatory comment on these boards.

[edited by: cien at 10:29 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

Demaestro




msg:4210220
 10:28 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Users never authorized Google to display their searches to others. That's internal data Google chose to display to others on its own.


Users don't need to authorize it, it is Google's data to do with as they please.

Rules or laws?


Both

where exactly did you get that from?


Previous court cases and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

. I bet the issues in contention in those cases had nothing to do even remotely with the issue being discussed here.


They didn't you are right, I didn't suggest otherwise but it speaks to a trend that the courts treat content by human differently then content that is part of an automated process.

By Google displaying content they are publishing.


I guess I can agree with that but where I see a difference is there are no links or dedicated pages with that content.

You have to start typing something to see the suggestion, no one can link to Google's suggestions. Where does this publication live? No where.

just like we are when we write a defamatory comment on these boards.


But it isn't just like that... when someone writes a deafamatory comment anywhere they do so with intent.

I still don't agree that automatically suggesting to someone that they use specific search terms is the same as making a claim, there is no intent to deceive, or to defame, the intent is to provide search suggestions.

[edited by: Demaestro at 10:48 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

Demaestro




msg:4210223
 10:40 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Leave it to a laywer to say it better than I,

[writ.news.findlaw.com...]

First, and fundamentally, in Mr. X's case, it is not clear that any statement at all was made by Google Suggest about Mr. X. To the contrary, Google Suggest was simply posing a question to the searcher (albeit in shorthand): "Do you want to search on ‘Mr. X' and ‘rapist, as many other users have done before you?"

Questions cannot be defamatory; only statements can. (Granted, there might be an exception for a clear rhetorical question, but that's not this case.)

And, if conjoining the words "Mr. X." and "rapist" makes a statement, what precisely is that statement? Can it even be a statement without a verb?

One might be tempted to say that, here, the verb is implied, and the statement is "Mr. X is a rapist." But in other contexts, "rapist" might come up, via Google Suggest, in conjunction with, say, a rape prosecutor or rape victim, and the guess of "is" for the verb would be dead wrong.

And to protect First Amendment rights, the legal system ought to focus on the reasonable user as its guide, when deciding how a Google Suggest result will be interpreted -- not the user who is prone to jump to conclusions, interpolate words, and assume facts, rather than clicking through to find out for himself or herself what the truth really is.


She goes on to explain why the suit was successful in France and why it would likely fail if filed in the USA.

tangor




msg:4210227
 10:48 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Users don't need to authorize it, it is Google's data to do with as they please.


Was going to stay out until this assertion. Whose data? Where did Google get it so it could be suggested?

Had to come from somewhere... and because it is "automated" (and that's necessary for G's bottom line to function properly) it is possible from some things to slip through that a human editor would have questioned.

Otherwise, I'm not in this discussion one way or the other. Just merely pointing out Google had to find it first to suggest it later.

Demaestro




msg:4210231
 10:51 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Where did Google get it so it could be suggested?


From other search queries from other users.

cien




msg:4210235
 10:55 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

They don't need to, it is Google's data.


Thank you Demaestro! Therefore responsible for it! It's internal data by the way, not just some video on youtube or a post on their webmaster forum which users authorized to display.

both


Which laws? Can you please quote the laws here.

Previous court cases


Ok, can you quote the cases here or any links to relevant news so we can go read about them.

But it isn't just like that... when someone writes a deafamatory comment anywhere they do so with intent.


There is no such "intentional" clause in the meaning of defamation. Defamation doesn't have to be intentional. Anyway, all that goes out the window when the content was asked to be removed and G would not remove it making themselves responsible for the content, in THIS case anyway.

With regards to the rest of your comment I guess we'd just have to agree to disagree. Anything content your eyes can see is considered publishing.

[edited by: cien at 11:02 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

Demaestro




msg:4210239
 11:01 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)


Ok, can quote the cases here or any links to relevant news so we can go read about them.


Ironic that you want me to suggest a search term to you. There are plenty of cases. Form your own search terms.

Which laws? Can you please quote the laws here.


Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:
Section 230(c)(1) provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by others:


Defamation doesn't have to be intentional.


You misunderstood me here. I am not saying it has to be intentional, I am saying there has to be intent.

Not.. "whoops I slipped and called you a rapist."

Something more along the lines of...

"I know you aren't a rapist but I am going to claim you are anyways because I intend to defame you"

cien




msg:4210245
 11:09 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm going to have to read all your lasts posts since you've been updating them after I have posted mine. At this point I'm lost. :)

cien




msg:4210253
 11:21 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ok, my posts make no sense after you have updated yours after the fact but I'm going to reply to the lawyer's post. I'm no lawyer and that's the opinion of one lawyer but anyway. I'll tell you where all her theory will be blown out of the water. She assumes Google suggestions are questions. Anyway, I'm sure Google was probably asked to take that content down and they refused.

[edited by: cien at 11:56 pm (utc) on Oct 1, 2010]

cien




msg:4210258
 11:49 pm on Oct 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

Regarding the "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act". You said:

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:
Section 230(c)(1) provides immunity from liability for providers and users of an "interactive computer service" who publish information provided by others:


Google suggestions is not an "interactive computer service" in the context of this law.

"A defendant must satisfy each of the three prongs to gain the benefit of the immunity:

1. The defendant must be a "provider or user" of an "interactive computer service."


Google is not a "user" obviously nor a "provider" of an "interactive" computer service in this case. "Provider of an interactive computer service" in context of this law means the "medium". So there is the search user (the initial searcher who AUTHORIZES Google to display their search terms on its suggestion tool just like you and I authorize WebmasterWorld to publish our posts here), a medium (Google suggestions tool) and the last search user which reads and acts upon the suggestions. That's what would constitute an interactive computer service in this case. There is no such thing here. Searches never authorized Google to publish their search terms nor make chocolate cakes with them. Did you agree to any privacy policy before you searched? No you didn't. That's internal data Google chose to display on its own, so the immunity would fail at this point. The only interaction here is between Google and the suggestion reader user. Google is responsible for the publishing of the search suggestions and any legal issues arising from it. Search terms weren't meant to be "suggestions". Google chose to make them "suggestions".

"2. The cause of action asserted by the plaintiff must "treat" the defendant "as the publisher or speaker" of the harmful information at issue."

Fails too. Google is the publisher. There is no "interactive computer service" anywhere.

3. The information must be "provided by another information content provider," i.e., the defendant must not be the "information content provider" of the harmful information at issue.

Fails too. Google is the content provider. Search terms weren't meant to be displayed as suggestions.

[edited by: cien at 12:36 am (utc) on Oct 2, 2010]

tangor




msg:4210261
 12:00 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

From other search queries from other users.


Once again, I'm trying to stay out of this... but this sounds like the users made the mistake... and I'm not buying that. I can't because Google makes the suggestions (as far as I can tell) from content they have indexed and display, and via repeated user searches, too.

Obviously, both of above will be included in the automated process, but that does not made the automated process immune to publishing defamatory content. I repeat, WHERE DID GOOGLE GET THE CONTENT which powers their suggestion box?

Demaestro




msg:4210292
 2:15 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

cien,


Google suggestions is not an "interactive computer service"


I love a good debate but this isn't debatable. Google search is the definition of an interactive computer service.

No one was calling you clueless...


I am straight up calling you clueless if you really think that Google search isn't an interactive computer service. It is and Google is the provider of the service, run by a computer, that you can interact with.

Because the cause of action asserted here by the plaintiff is treating Google as the "speaker" of the harmful information that meets the 2nd point.

The third point says that the info must be provided by another info content provider... which is the case here because Google's users provide the info for the search not Google themselves.

IMO the third point is sticky and would be the only point this case could fail on... but to say that it isn't a interactive computer service is absolutely incorrect.

Thanks for the lively conversation but when you start making assertions like that I really don't know what else to say.

I'll do a face palm and move on.

Hopefully a higher court in France will make a better decision in this case when it comes up for appeal.... and not the kiddie diddler's case... Google's.

cien




msg:4210304
 2:48 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

I love a good debate but this isn't debatable. Google search is the definition of an interactive computer service.


Thanks for the lively conversation but when you start making assertions like that I really don't know what else to say.


Bravo! Exactly! Can't agree with you more! Google search no doubt is an interactive computer service. However, Google suggests function is a different set of 20 dollar bills and what the issue here is about. Because Google threw "search" and "it's not my content" in the mix for their defense doesn't mean it's relevant. They love to do that. They blame MS and the pope for the dogs barking in their front door. Google suggestions is the issue here, NOT Google search. I wrote clearly "Google Suggestions" and you even quoted it.

So the rest of your post doesn't make any sense.

[edited by: cien at 3:08 am (utc) on Oct 2, 2010]

buckworks




msg:4210306
 3:01 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google suggestions is not an "interactive computer service"


I love a good debate but this isn't debatable. Google search is the definition of an interactive computer service.


DeMaestro, he said that Google SUGGESTIONS is not interactive.

You are committing the logical fallacy of the Straw Man argument, which attacks an argument different from what the person has said.

Also, take it easy about calling other people clueless. That is bad logic and even worse manners.

moTi




msg:4210315
 3:40 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

american legislation is way too lax with responsibility issues on the web. youtube not responsible for uploaded illegal content, google not responsible for defamatory search suggestions. well, it gives the big u.s. corporations a strong locational advantage over countries where the rulings are stricter. and imo the lax rulings have made it possible for sites like youtube to actually operate at current scale in the first place. fine for them - bad for everyone who is affected by the consequences.

it's all the user, the computer, the algo. just never the publisher himself, right? ah, of course. google isn't even the publisher, google is the service provider, right?

just because something is technically possible doesn't make it legal or free from responsibility. but yes, it's mainly an ethical question. and a matter of different legal conceptions between countries.

what blind trust some of you have in commercial companies, fascinating..

It would be different if Google was ignoring a long standing problem with the suggestion engine, or if their the algo was written in a such way that there was bias towards defamatory implications. But this is absolutely not the case.

how do you know that it is unbiased?

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?

again, how do you know that it is neutral? how would an unbiased code even look like in this connection? who defines that?

and when there's no responsibility for google if they show [yourname] in the dropdown associated with some untrue bull$hit, destroying your dignity, where does *that* end? it makes me shiver.

the longer i think about it, kudos to the french, way to go! we have to change our minds towards stronger consumer protection. after all, the internet is a place for humans. we have to imply some stricter rules and really tackle the lack of responsibility (not only in the internet business if you ask me).

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4210346
 6:54 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Those of you who have been around for a while may recall that I have been an advocate of tighter controls on the Internet and more accountability for the last few years. I think this is another indication that it is beginning to happen and IMO that can only be a good thing.

People have been getting away with doing what they like online for years but the penny has started to drop with governments around the world. They are beginning to understand the processes and see the power of the Internet and make no mistake about it, this is only the beginning.

.

wildbest




msg:4210368
 7:28 am on Oct 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

What does people's understanding of what a domain name is have to do with search suggestions?

What does your opinion about the economics of Google's search suggestions (and how they effect traffic to your websites) have to do with a defamation lawsuit in France?

It's about address of a Web resource, IanKelley!

For majority of Web users Google's search suggestion is not just a suggestion or isn't a suggestion at all. It is THE NAME of a Web resource! If 2 'suggestions' are neighbors on Google's suggestion list, obviously, they are members of one and the same group! How does Google decide those different terms should share one name space?

Oh, how stupid and clueless I am... It's not Google. The computer decided those terms are similar and should be grouped together?!

We should close this now.

I agree with you, BeeDeeDubbleU. You can't make someone see something (at least on discussion forums) if they intentionally close their eyes every time they are about to see it.

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