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Google found guilty of libel for search listings
Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4523072
 12:56 am on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have no doubt they will "vigorously" appeal the ruling and call it silly etc but Google has been found guilty of libel for content they listed in serps despite legal concerns and objections by a person negatively impacted.

[techradar.com...]

Trkulja filed his suit against Google when the internet search giant refused to take down links to website articles promoting libelous claims Trkulja was connected to organized crime in Melbourne.

At the time, Google advised Trkulja to contact the sites on which the offensive materials were posted, as those webmasters controlled the content, and Google merely posted search results based on its analytics.


The court found Google guilty of failing to remove the damaging content from their site when they were asked to do so. "we're just the messenger" didn't cut it.

 

IanKelley




msg:4524107
 11:11 am on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yep, forget personal feelings regarding Google... this kind of precedent, were it accepted internationally, would impact on a lot of us.

Even if you hate modern search and think there is some way the internet as we know it could exist without it... what about social networking? Imagine the effect on social networking sites if they had to remove all (claimed) libelous content.

graeme_p




msg:4524110
 11:41 am on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

The fact that something is "hard" doesn't exempt one from staying within the laws


No, but it can make the law unreasonable. A law that could close down a whole category of useful services in order to make it easy to sue, is a bad law that should be changed.

superclown2




msg:4524157
 3:08 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

increasingly it seems to me like there are quite a few pensioners around here who have written something on a static html page in 1998, enjoyed steady rankings in google serps and income from google ads for years and years, got fat and lazy and when things took a turn do nothing but bite the hand that fed them.


I confess I got fat - I'm working on it - but lazy, no way, this is a hard business and those who don't keep up go under quickly.

but i said that in the first place, because since some time, i'm an operator of a search engine with massive user generated content myself. if i would be responsible for all that stuff, i would have to close down, simple as that.


So, like the rest of us, you'd have to adapt or go under. The world doesn't owe a living to search engine operators any more than it does to webmasters.

superclown2




msg:4524158
 3:18 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

[IMO the best way to clean out the trash is go back to our roots because back in the day of real directories, paid inclusion and actual link pages on trusted sites you simply never encountered the crap you find in todays search engines. Google's algos have just lost the purpose of how the original web worked which was links were votes of what was worth visiting and trusted sites only linked other trusted sites, an invitation only kind of establishment that kept people from drudging through the crud we do today.


You may be right but think of how much screaming there would be from webmasters then! Three hundred dollars a year for every website displayed by Yahoo, hundreds of different "search engines" all with their own primitive algos, paid entries jumbled amongst the generic SERPs by Overture; Webmaster World wouldn't need a new server, it would have to run it's own datacentre. And must we really start buttering up the editors to get our sites in DMOZ again? No no, this must be a nightmare I'm having .....

coachm




msg:4524160
 3:28 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

graeme
No, but it can make the law unreasonable. A law that could close down a whole category of useful services in order to make it easy to sue, is a bad law that should be changed.


The devil will always be in the details, but companies that make billions from user generated content, violate the spirit of copyright laws, have no obligations to anyone but shareholders, have lots of not obvious privacy issues most users don't know about, have had an almost free ride with no accountability.

Seen webmaster complaints about Pinterest? How bout google as a scraper? DMCA is a disaster, and it's so weak, and puts the honus of victims to do the work. Seriously, isn't it about time?

If I did (as a person) similar things to what these companies do in real life (at least the equivalent), I'd be either in jail or sued back to the stoneage.

It was "hard" and many thought it unreasonable to integrate to address racial issues, have decent sexual assault laws, have good workplace, health and safety regulations, etc. It's always unreasonable at first.

thecoalman




msg:4524172
 4:02 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

As for statements 'libelling' Google, they are only a libel if they cannot be shown to be true.


Whether it's true or not is irrelevant,that's not the point. The point is you're putting Google, WW or any other site in the position of determining if it's true.

graeme_p




msg:4524198
 7:37 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

@coachm, copyright law is not relevant. I do not know what you mean by the "spirit of copyright law", especially given that modern copyright law derives from the Statute of Queen Ann which was the result of a lobbying campaign by formerly government licensed printers to soften the impact on their cartel by the abolition of censorship laws. Um, that does sound like how things still work!

Can you please tell me of anything Google does that would put you in jail if you did it?

I do not want a web where every statement that someone finds objectionable is removed from the public eye.

SevenCubed




msg:4524201
 8:07 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

I do not want a web where every statement that someone finds objectionable is removed from the public eye.


Ditto.

But we do need balance and for controllers of search engines to use some common sense when directly approached. These types of confrontations are the growing pains of the internet that is really still in its infancy.

Someone sent me an interesting article yesterday that surprisingly was written in 2006 yet it is very relevant to this topic from the sense that when it happens to one of them it's not alright. But yet if it's the public at large...who cares; was their attitude, and appears to still be.

From within article:
That obsession with privacy may explain Google’s puzzling reaction last year, when Elinor Mills, a reporter with the tech news service cnet, ran a search on Google CEO Eric Schmidt and published the results: Schmidt lived with his wife in Atherton, California, was worth about $1.5 billion, had dumped about $140 million in Google shares that year, was an amateur pilot, and had been to the Burning Man festival. Google threw a fit, claimed that the information was a security threat, and announced it was blacklisting cnet’s reporters for a year. (The company eventually backed down.) It was a peculiar response, especially given that the information Mills published was far less intimate than the details easily found online on every one of us. But then, this is something of a pattern with Google: When it comes to information, it knows what’s best. [Source "Is Google Evil? | Mother Jones"]


I'm not sure if a link out to that site is alright so not included but just searching the quoted source will lead you to it. It's a good article, not full of accusations, just a sensible balance of questioning conduct.

coachm




msg:4524214
 10:01 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

graeme:
@coachm, copyright law is not relevant. I do not know what you mean by the "spirit of copyright law", especially given that modern copyright law derives from the Statute of Queen Ann which was the result of a lobbying campaign by formerly government licensed printers to soften the impact on their cartel by the abolition of censorship laws. Um, that does sound like how things still work!

Can you please tell me of anything Google does that would put you in jail if you did it?

I do not want a web where every statement that someone finds objectionable is removed from the public eye.


Graeme, as an author and publisher I have to know a lot about the copyright issues. The reason copyright exists, and it's clearly stated in the appropriate legal documents, is to encourage the development of intellectual property. Seriously, that IT. The purpose, the spirit, the reason.
My bet is you can figure out the rest of my "lecture" on the issue of accountability or lack. Had Google acted consistent with encouraging intellectual property over the last years?

As for criminal acts, give me a bit of leeway here, please, because yes, it an apples/orange thing. But metaphorically it works. If I stalked people, aimed parabolic microphones at them when the talked in public spaces, collected information about where they went, where they shopped, what they bought, etc, then sold that information for monetary gain, I'd probably be arrested for harrassment and found guilty. And if I tried to defend my actions by saying - "but yes, we tell people that's what we do - see there's the fine print on my teeshirt (in 2 pt font) that explains our "privacy policy", I'm going up the river.

Finally, your comment about objectionable. uhhuh. But that's not the issue. The issue is whether some companies can be involved as intermediaries for illegal activities, and then shield themselves and avoid responsibility and accountability. And, that when a company is informed that this has happened with valid specifics and refuses to act, then in my opinion, they should be subject to punishment.

I actually think things should go even further, and that companies SHOULD be held to a standard that requires them to proactively vet content before its published, or be liable, but I recognize that really isn't practical. Although sometimes I wonder why it's ok for Google NOT to hire people do the work, just because its "costly".

There's an analogy here with other criminal activities, like sexual exploitation, terrorism and drug trafficking that makes things clearer.

Facebook does a lot to combat exploitation of minors online - they allocate significant money to do that. Why? Give them credit for maybe thinking it's the right thing to do, but beyond that, they know that 1) if they don't government will end up forcing them to do it, and 2) they know that the business costs of NOT doing it could eventually be almost fatal for them.

The point though is that while they proabably aren't doing enough, what they do is because they know they will be held accountable in a number of ways, because the crimes are so heinous.

Where there is no accountability, there's nothing done. The giants have had a good profitable run off the backs of user gen. content without having to spend more than pennies to follow the spirit and letter of the law.

Google as an example, has paid huge fines for its legal oopsies, so things are getting better, BUT for them its simply the cost of doing business, so there isn't any real accountability in their business space.

And whether its' libel, copyright, whatever for those of us who don't have tens of millions of dollars to sue, and that's almost all of us, all we can do is suffer, and complain.

coachm




msg:4524215
 10:16 pm on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

it would certainly hurt my business if the big guys would have to change their whole concept upside down. again: i simply can't believe that none of you wouldn't be concerned about these issues.


When an oil carrier spills its load causing damage, and that spillage was a result of actions or omissions on a civil or criminal level, and as a result of the courts, they are held accountable -- that they OUGHT to have know there was a problem -- and go out of business?

or Enron?

No. I'm not worried.

The large Internet players, can violate laws because their questionable actions do their damage little by little every second to people who couldn't possibly do anything about it. Somehow because its incremental damage, it's OK? We say: Oh well, who cares? We wouldn't want Google to go out of business because it has a business model based on NOT hiring people to ensure everything is lawful.

IanKelley




msg:4524247
 12:05 am on Dec 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

[...] but companies that make billions from user generated content, violate the spirit of copyright laws [...]


Alright, you're entitled to that view, but lets be clear, this statement refers to the bigger part of the modern internet, not just Google and Facebook.

User generated content is what the internet is made of. Long before companies were making billions from it, guys were creating social platforms and search engines and content aggregators for free because they thought it was fun.

That open, collaborative, spirit is what this kind of precedent threatens.

TypicalSurfer




msg:4524277
 4:45 am on Dec 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google will probably just remove libelous content the next time they get a request to do so. I'm sure the internet will survive.

coachm




msg:4524280
 5:36 am on Dec 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I would like to see new legislation when they finally do the next laws that holds companies that profit from user generated content to higher standards. That way, the little guys, let's say businesses earning less than 100k a year from their websites have a lesser burden on copyright, and the problems with user generated content.

Then for companies that earn big dollars, require more in terms of ensuring posts aren't libelous, or otherwise illegal by existing laws. Of course the threshold can be anywhere.

That way, the open collaborative spirit NOT driven by big dollars gets maintained, while those making huge profits finally have to be accountable -- so Facebook, Pinterest, Google, etc would be required to invest in ensuring illegal actions are prevented.

I think its silly to think that open collaborative spirit and google can be in the same sentence!

TypicalSurfer




msg:4524294
 1:21 pm on Dec 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

@coachm

Regulations will only hinder the small guy. Google and others actually want a regulatory system so they can use it to their advantage. The notion that regulators save us from them is quaint but not reality at all.

The last thing google wants now is a free market, their next step is to own and shape the regulatory process.

netmeg




msg:4524300
 2:04 pm on Dec 2, 2012 (gmt 0)

I almost hope some of you get the internet you are calling for.

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