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Google found guilty of libel for search listings
Sgt_Kickaxe

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



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 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.

 

mhansen



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 12:44 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

"we're just the messenger"


Google is going to have a hard time claiming that it's 100% algorithm choice anymore, when they funded a study which found their search results are opinion, and thus protected by the 1st amendment in the USA. (Link - PC Mag [pcmag.com])

The fact that Google uses sophisticated, computerized algorithms to produce its results, meanwhile, makes no difference, Volokh argued, because "the computer algorithms that produce search engine output are written by humans."

londrum

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 3:23 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

its a bit like what is going on with lord mcalpine and twitter at the moment. he's not just going after the original person who libeled him - he's going after everyone who repeated it too. this is pretty much the same - google has repeated a libel.

Brett_Tabke

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



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 4:18 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

This from the story is a bad bad analogy:

"In that sense, Google Inc. is like the newsagent that sells a newspaper containing a defamatory article. While there might be no specific intention to publish defamatory material, there is a relevant intention by the newsagent to publish the newspaper for the purposes of the law of defamation."


A better analogy would be:

"In that sense, Google Inc. is like the newsagent that clips out some of the bad parts of the paper and pastes them under a 72 point headline of your name. Then sells the paper and says he is innocent of it all."

Computers can't think. Someone trains the algos - those algos are editorial decisions.

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 7:15 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

those algos are editorial decisions.


Since when is displaying a snippet that best matches the search terms "editorial"?

If you always got the same snippet and it wasn't a snippet pre-defined in the meta description, then I'd agree it was an editorial decision. However, as we all know, if you alter the search terms it will alter the snippet displayed to include those terms if possible. Therefore the problem is how do you remove something that doesn't actually exist short of removing the found page in the first place which was the source that generated the snippet.

If it were the Yahoo directory which always has a fixed response or an RSS newsfeed display then I'd agree it was editorial and also easily removed.

Not that I'm on Google's side here, I'm on the side of all webmasters as the integral search on any website which is a mere query into a SQL database could now be deemed 'editorial'. People jump up and down when Google gets shot in the foot but the next time you jump you might feel a sharp pain as you find out you were shot in the foot too.

Apples, oranges and technologically inept law.

bwnbwn

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 9:24 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

This was brought up when Google lost in another case don't have time to read the case posted but could be the same case.
[webmasterworld.com...]

austtr

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 10:15 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Step back for moment and apply the KISS principle.

Google has made it their business to gather and store a huge bucket of information. It's their bucket, they knowingly collected the information and it's their business model to generate revenue from what's in that bucket.

The guy who sued told Google they had incorrect, libelous information appearing on websites stored in their bucket and that they needed to remove/suppress it, thereby halting any further distribution of said incorrect information.

Either by design or oversight, Google failed to act, thereby subjecting said individual to further pain and suffering and loss of reputation... etc etc etc.

Google was/is the central entity in the distribution of the incorrect information and failed to address the matter when asked to do so.

Of course they got sued... what did they think was going to happen?

TypicalSurfer

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 10:20 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

They should have just removed the links. It would have been the decent thing to do.

Sgt_Kickaxe

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



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 10:22 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

Only Google can be held accountable for what is on their website and this reaffirms that they are accountable for their content even if it's collected from other sources and even if they don't want to be. I think it's good policy to ensure no site is above the law.

thecoalman

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 11:33 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

The guy who sued told Google they had incorrect, libelous information appearing on websites stored in their bucket and that they needed to remove/suppress it, thereby halting any further distribution of said incorrect information.


I don't know the details here but how does Google know he isn't lying?

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 11:47 pm on Nov 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

They should have just removed the links. It would have been the decent thing to do.


Nonsense.

If Yelp has bad reviews or malicious reviews that put a restaurant out of business who's fault is that? The restaurant with the allegedly bad food, the poster on Yelp that wrote the review, Yelp for publishing the review or Google for indexing and displaying the review?

What about Rip Off Report? Lots of malicious stuff posted on ROR and nobody has been able to shut them down and many have tried and failed so what next, go after Google for indexing ROR?

This is just bad precedence for any site with search results.

Let me take it one step further as many sites use Google search on their site but allow web results to display so technically the site owner AND Google could be held accountable. Wait until someone figures that out and sues every website showing those libelous results.

Laugh now but when it comes around to bite you in tbe butt it won't be so funny.

Lorel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 1:35 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I find this very funny:

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.


Finally Google is being sued for telling someone else to get the links removed.

MikeNoLastName

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 2:43 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Maybe he should have gone after G with a DMCA request instead for scraping content... oh wait those seldom work with G either.

moTi

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 2:56 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Only Google can be held accountable for what is on their website [...] and this reaffirms that they are accountable for their content even if it's collected from other sources

think it through. all content aggregators, search engines and every website with user generated content on a larger scale would have to close down. i can't believe that none of you is concerned? i for one would be out of business if this kind of legislation gains acceptance.

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 3:10 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Not that I'm on Google's side here, I'm on the side of all webmasters as the integral search on any website which is a mere query into a SQL database could now be deemed 'editorial'. People jump up and down when Google gets shot in the foot but the next time you jump you might feel a sharp pain as you find out you were shot in the foot too [...] technologically inept law


Exactly! This is something that should concern every webmaster and developer that uses any kind of automated query to grab/display content.

I don't know the details here but how does Google know he isn't lying?


Right, and moreover, how do they employ the huge army of employees that would be necessary in order to field and verify these types of requests if they were considered responsible for doing so worldwide.

The obvious answer is they can't, no internet company has those kinds of resources. So what we are talking about is the end of search. Not just Google but Bing, Yahoo, and every future attempt at automated organization of information on the internet.

It's too much information to expect any organization to be able to afford to monitor it non algorithmically. It has to be automated.

I kinda doubt other courts will follow Victoria on this but you never know, even now in 2012 the extent to which courts and politicians fail to understand technology is pretty amazing.

TypicalSurfer

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 4:12 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's the old axiom, great power, great responsibility. If google can't find a way to act decently they won't have the power. They push these cases to the wall at everyones peril, including what incrediBILL brought up.

Did it ever occur to you that google may want these precedents, burdensome hurdles to enter the search space? It should have.

It's too easy to do the decent thing, for them firstly not to do that and then push a bad case tells me they are angling for regulation, not avoiding it.

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 6:02 am on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

moTi is right. If this is upheld:

1) Search engines will have to remove anything that anyone claims is libellous - it is not practical for them to verify the facts. In the UK, where hosting providers are liable once notified of a claimed libel, they do not bother to verify, they just take down anything claimed to be libellous.

2) The winners will be big websites with brands that people already know. The losers will be small sites that rely on search engines for people to hear of them.

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 2:55 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

People are letting their hatred of Google get in the way of their common sense.

Make up your minds - do you really *want* Google to be the Internet Police (more than they are now)? Because that's what this kind of precedent would lead to.

superclown2

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 3:13 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

The obvious answer is they can't, no internet company has those kinds of resources


Google has the money to provide those resources.

So what we are talking about is the end of search


Google isn't a search engine any more. It's an advertising agency/knowledge centre.

It's too much information to expect any organization to be able to afford to monitor it non algorithmically. It has to be automated.


Search engines, including Google, have driven a coach and horses through copyright and privacy laws for years and so far got away with it but one day the laws will catch up with them. If algorythmic search results are ultimately doomed because of potential libel issues then, tough, they'll have to come up with something else.

If Google was a pure search engine producing unbiased results I would have some sympathy but they are not. The SERPs are just there to attact visitors to click on their ads, which greatly outnumber the search results on most pages and particularly above the fold. So, as a commercial organisation they have a duty of care to avoid causing damage to other people and since this guy had informed them of the problem they were causing him, and they did nothing about it, they just don't have a defence.

BaseballGuy



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 3:32 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I agree with superclown2.....Google is not a search engine anymore, it's an advertising agency. They are being extremely unethical by not disclosing this....and they are still operating under the good-will they created in their early days when they really and truly cared about the quality of the search results, not their Adwords profits.

I did a search yesterday for a company on my laptop. I clicked on the first result without actually realizing that it was a Google paid advertisement via Adsense. I quickly hit the "back" button on my browser and went to the organic result that I was looking for (on the top of page 2, I might add).

I have over 15 years experience doing SEO and "internet". I was sober and not tired when I did the Google search.....it was clearly obvious to me that Google is attempting to blend their paid search results in with the organic results. The color of the background or something was "changed" ever so slightly to make the Google advertisements blend in further with the organic.

Funny how Google tells webmasters not to do the same thing....

thecoalman

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 9:41 pm on Nov 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google has the money to provide those resources.


...and when every Tom, dick and Harry realizes they can something removed from a SE by claiming it's libelous?



Search engines, including Google, have driven a coach and horses through copyright and privacy laws for years and so far got away with it but one day the laws will catch up with them.


If Google were to claim this is a libelous statement and demand WW take it down what do you think WW should do?

IanKelley

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 2:28 am on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google isn't a search engine any more. It's an advertising agency/knowledge centre.


Whatever you call the model, it's the result of a natural evolution in response to the problem (making the internet available to the average person). It's not just Google, it's all of their competition as well. Algorithmic ranking is the only general solution that works and you have to pay for the engineers and the server farms somehow, PPC was the natural answer.

When people talk about search engines really being advertising agencies they forget how much manpower and money goes into organic search results.

If Google were to claim this is a libelous statement and demand WW take it down what do you think WW should do?


Indeed... And taking it to a more realistic level (in terms of what could happen if this ruling were to start a trend), what if Google were to claim that every post mentioning Google on WW was libelous?

All of those posts would need to be hand reviewed in order to decide if any of them were indeed a potential legal problem.

Suddenly WW has a hard choice. Hire people and review the posts or just remove all of them? Suppose they decide to leave some of those posts up? Google could then file lawsuits about the remaining posts. Regardless of who wins the drain in time and money could be crippling for WW.

So the best course of action starts to look like removal of all posts mentioning Google, leaving a gaping hole in WW content, much like similar claims would leave huge holes in search engine indexes.

And of course WW is too small an example to really compare... As mentioned the number of claims coming in at a major search engine would be too large for any size team of human reviewers to keep up with.

graeme_p

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 7:30 am on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google has the money to provide those resources.


You think Google has enough money to investigate every single statement on an indexed page that upsets someone, establish the facts, take legal advice on it, and pay compensation when a mistake is made?

With tens of billions of indexed pages, Google has nothing like enough resources, and I doubt anyone does.

TypicalSurfer

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 2:02 pm on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google has thousands of "quality raters" busily junking web sites on a full time basis, the notion of hiding behind an algo as an excuse not to remove libelous material is laughable.

superclown2

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 8:56 pm on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

The hard fact is that if legislators decide that the methods used by search engines produce libellous results then those methods will have to change. It doesn't matter a jot whether companies can easily afford them or not.

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

anallawalla

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



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 9:42 pm on Nov 30, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is some more legal background and jury verdict for this story. The plaintiff has also successfully sued Yahoo. [defamationwatch.com.au ]

coachm

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 2:18 am on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

The hard fact is that if legislators decide that the methods used by search engines produce libellous results then those methods will have to change. It doesn't matter a jot whether companies can easily afford them or not.


Exactly. The fact that something is "hard" doesn't exempt one from staying within the laws and not knowingly harming someone as a result of some illegal activity. Google and others like Facebook have made incredible amts. of money while remaining teflon unaccountable for the impact of questionable activities.

If I used a business model that violated laws, because it was the only way for me to be profitable, and someone sued me or had me charged, I don't think saying "well, golly, it's the only way to stay in business", almost everyone here would laugh at the argument, and cheer when I had to shut down or go legal.

That's accountability, and anything that increases that for the mega-user generated sites is good. let's keep in mind that a court decision about a Google, or Facebook doesn't mean the same decision will apply to you and I. It might, it might not, but the truth is that nobody is going to sue me for these kinds of things. No point.

It time for accountability. IMHO.

MikeNoLastName

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 3:48 am on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

"search engines and every website with user generated content on a larger scale would have to close down."

Oh darn. I'd be thrilled if that happened. No user generated content here, and we were literally doing 10 times the traffic before Any of the big 3 SEs existed than today. Can't wait! Direct-type / direct-match domains and personal favorites lists RULE(D)! Although without SE's I guess a lot of people who ONLY do SEO may have to find new ways to make a living.

But back to the other trend in this thread. I wouldn't be surprised if G COULD afford to review everything they include in their index. They have been constantly narrowing the index by eliminating duplicated (in THEIR opinion), shallow (AGAIN in THEIR opinion) and scraper content (that comes too close to their own) so the next step is to simply manually weed out the remaining .01%. Perhaps it will turn into (as it has been turning all along) that they ONLY include content they have reviewed first and trusted enough to make authority (pretty much what we have now), thus shutting out a large part of the net. Oops, they're already there. Either that or they will leave it to their website developer slaves (us) to do for them somehow. I see a day real soon where they stop showing so many results per search (maybe 50 max) and only show up to the number of results beyond which they no longer have paid ads to cover, perhaps interleave them every other one. Imagine how much big advertisers would be willing to pay for that! (Oops, now I went and gave them the idea!)

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 4:13 am on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

Perhaps it will turn into (as it has been turning all along) that they ONLY include content they have reviewed first and trusted enough to make authority (pretty much what we have now), thus shutting out a large part of the net.


The simple solution is to only display results from sites that appear in hand filtered directories like DMOZ, Yahoo, etc. and switch to a paid inclusion model for everything else and they'll make even more money than they did before.

Not only that, by dumping all the dregs of the web, like MFA and scrapers sites, they'll create room for other smaller search engines to fill the void and index the dregs. The smaller SE won't have deep enough pockets to bother suing in the first place.

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.

The sad thing is the search engines couldn't even dial back the algo to just include sites from legit link pages because thanks to their draconian linking penalties they've discouraged link pages which are virtually extinct these days except on the dreg sites themselves.

Oh the irony.

moTi

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4523070 posted 10:44 am on Dec 1, 2012 (gmt 0)

i don't know which types of websites most other WebmasterWorld members operate. but 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. like the companies or not, but this persistent google (and facebook for that matter) hatred from grumpy old men makes me sick. rant over.

to quote myself for clarification:
all content aggregators, search engines and every website with user generated content on a larger scale would have to close down.

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.

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 it seems that many of you want that kind of web services to go out of business regardless the circumstances. thanks.

This 45 message thread spans 2 pages: 45 ( [1] 2 > >
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