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French court convicts Google and boss of defamation

     
1:15 pm on Sep 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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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...]
2:46 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I 100% disagree with this ruling.

I can't believe a court actually came to that conclusion.
2:58 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I 100% agree with this ruling.

And again it's the French who have the guts to show Google some limits.

Vive la France!
3:30 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I 100% agree with this ruling.

I've seen some pretty horrific suggestions since all this started, especially when it comes to name and company searches. When they first released that function, I did some tests, you can influence the suggestions greatly with the right content and links.
3:56 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It is an automated suggestion. How can you support charging an actual person with defamation due to this?

The plaintiff in this case had been convicted on appeal to a three-year jail sentence for corruption of a minor,


Interesting to see people on here supporting a child molester trying not to be known as such online. <snip>

To those supporting this ruling I ask you this:

How did Google defame this man who was convicted?

[edited by: goodroi at 9:13 pm (utc) on Sep 26, 2010]
[edit reason] Please keep the discussion on topic [/edit]

4:38 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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It is an automated suggestion. How can you support charging an actual person with defamation due to this?


Because a person(s) wrote the script/software...

The message to take home is 'fix your script/software".
6:21 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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you would almost think it was a us court, but this is simply silly politics, ok personally i hate those suggestions, also you can not click it off anymore.
7:18 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I 100% disagree with this ruling.


Demaestro, you're 100% wrong!

As already mentioned on some other threads, searching Google for [mycompanyname] brings the following suggestion:
"Showing results for [competitorcompanyname]. Search instead for [mycompanyname]"

Company names are not very similar. Business volume is of similar size and both companies are of similar age. Google, however, is sending all our customers looking for our website to one of our main competitors. This behavior is a criminal act and should be severely punished! Unfortunately, I've no financial strength to go after Google. Vive la France!
7:41 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Company names are not very similar. Business volume is of similar size and both companies are of similar age. Google, however, is sending all our customers looking for our website to one of our main competitors. This behavior is a criminal act and should be severely punished!


And what does any of that rambling have to do with defamation of character?

Vive la France!


The guy was convicted of a crime against a CHILD and this ruling is saying that he has some right to not be automatically related (linked) to stories on the web about the crime.... and you are hailing that as a victory.

I find it disgusting.

I again ask, and it will be ignored because it is the crux of the whole case but I will ask again.

How did Google defame this man who was convicted?
7:43 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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what is the difference between this, and bad reviews on amazon? presumably you could sue amazon too, arguing that they created the software that makes it possible.

i suppose the point is whether what they're saying is actually true. if the guy is not a rapist or a satanist then that's obviously unfair. but if someone says their product is rubbish, then that's also unfair. same thing, just a different degree.
7:53 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Because a person(s) wrote the script/software...

The message to take home is 'fix your script/software".


So you think Google should be required to fact check anything that gets created as a suggestion based on words written by others in order to avoid defamation?

That is ridiculous. The script isn't broken, there are stories about the guy and those words.

If you start typing "Obama News" after typing the 'N' I see "Obama Not An American"

I am not stupid enough to think that Google is actually suggesting that Obama is not a natural born citizen of the USA.

To look a search suggestion and take it to be an assertion made by Google is among the dumbest things I have heard, and to have a court make a ruling that says that a search suggestion is an assertion is sad and to me says that the judge in this case uses the Internet about as much as my turtle.
7:56 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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i suppose the point is whether what they're saying is actually true


I take it a step further and say the point is... is Google actually saying anything by suggesting search terms?
8:08 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Have to agree with Demaestro on this one. It's as if people actively look for dumb things to sue Google about.
9:14 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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To look a search suggestion and take it to be an assertion made by Google is among the dumbest things I have heard.

Yeah, it is dumb to search Google for [Demaestro] and get the following suggestion:

"Showing results for [Mya$$]. Search instead for [Demaestro]"

It is dumb and can be defamation too!
9:30 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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wildbest what does that have to do with my claim, that you quoted, stating that by making search suggestions Google isn't making assertions about anything. They are simply suggesting search terms.

How can it be defamation if Google isn't making any claims? How is Google defaming this person?
10:02 pm on Sept 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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They are simply suggesting search terms.

Wrong. This is not a simple suggestion. Google is suggesting a BETTER name for what you are ALREADY searching for!

If I search for [Demaestro] Google is suggesting:

"Showing results for [Mya$$]. Search instead for [Demaestro]"

Google thinks I'll have more adequate results for what I'm searching for if I search for [Mya$$]! Very dumb isn't it? And the dumbest thing is, some people say, Demaestro should not be so upset, because this is what the script produces... This is Act of God and nothing can be done... Of course, people that know Demaestro know he is not an a$$hole and would not take into account what Google is suggesting! But who knows? At a certain point they might decide Google's authority is something important?!
1:04 am on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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The plaintiff in this case had been convicted on appeal to a three-year jail sentence for corruption of a minor, a conviction that was not yet definitive, when he discovered the results on entering his name in a Google search.


So is this e technicality, meaning "I'm still appealing it and until all appeals run out, I'm innocent," or is still defamation for telling the truth in France?
9:02 am on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This is a bit silly. What was the guy's case against google?

'I may be a soon to be convicted peodophile but I draw the line at being called a satanist and rapist is a bit harsh.'

You may aswell try to sue Google for losing income by your company not appearing as a first result...BRB
9:27 am on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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well google and Eric in particular should have thought this through actively pushing stuff at users makes a "not me guv" offence harder.

what happens if a high profile criminal has the same name as an innocent person and a lynch mob forms and goes after the innocent person?

and don't forget Google has some very high-profile media enemies who have a lot of political power (eg the police being afraid of rupert murdoch over the hacking cases)
9:28 am on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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oh bum I meant "not the me gov" <b>defence</b>"
10:00 am on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I think we are letting emotion cloud our opinion here. This is not about protecting child molesters. It is about making google behave themselves. Search suggest is not a good idea unless you are a SEO and I understand that it can be manipulated. Google uses this, "It's not our fault, it's automated" defense every time they get something wrong.

The need to learn that we live in a world where laws must be obeyed and someone has to be accountable for their results when they get it wrong.
11:11 am on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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+1 BDDU.

Guns don't kill people, people kill people. And software doesn't make suggestions, people who design the software do. The plaintiff's actions don't excuse Google's actions.

It seems like a pretty small thing to sue Google on (and it is) but it's about time someone started to reign this company in.
12:33 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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why cant we switch it off anymore on google.com, as said i hate this suggestion sh.. - i do understand other business about the suggestions also, that the competitions is there, but still its up to google to do what they want, its there company, if we dont like it, use bing.
2:38 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Take in count that 1st page results on G might make you rich or the opposite depending on why. Anyway G will always say "its not us", but we won't know for sure! and a third party has always some responsibility on what it let others do.
3:11 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Google uses this, "It's not our fault, it's automated" defense every time they get something wrong.


This isn't about automation it is about making accusations or making assertions that defame someone.

To take a suggested search and take it as an assertion, claim, accusation or otherwise is wrong.

And software doesn't make suggestions,


And a suggestion to search something made by software isn't an accusation or an assertion of guilt, it is simply a suggestion to search.

What if the first 10 results from the suggested search "FirstName LastName molestor" were stories about how FirstName LastName was innocent of all charges? Is it still defamation?

If I have the same name as a murderer can I sue Google for having my name and murderer come up? Despite the fact that there are 1000s of stories talking about how a person with my name killed people and was convicted? They're not defaming me but Google is?

I really don't see the rational here at all.

Not one person has answered the meta question here.....

How did Google and Eric defame this person?
3:21 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Gotta ask... who serves jail time in this event?

Tempest in a teapot.
4:08 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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And a suggestion to search something made by software isn't an accusation or an assertion of guilt, it is simply a suggestion to search.

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?
4:28 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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i think it all boils down to

G will always say "its not us", but we won't know for sure!

algos are coded by humans. businesses are driven by commercial interests. why blindly trust a company?

secondly, ever thought about the legislation in france and other countries being somewhat different from the u.s in this respect?
sorry to say that much of the disgusting, libelous and even racist content i've come across especially in certain forums is hosted in the u.s.
content that may fall under freedom of speech and therefore be perfectly legal there. whereas in other countries expressions of that kind will lead into heavy legal trouble.
9:16 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Google doesn't have a right to subject people to rapist and satanist stuff regardless of how they do it. The judge ruled on the event, not the method, good for him.

S...A...T... "Daddy why is there Satanism on Saturdays?"
10:56 pm on Sept 27, 2010 (gmt 0)

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This is the funniest thing the French have done in a long time. :)
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