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German Court Rules Google Must Remove Autocomplete Entries If Defamatory

   
1:01 pm on May 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Google Inc. must respect requests to remove autocomplete entries from its search bar in Germany if they are defamatory, a German court ruled Tuesday.German Court Rules Google Must Remove Autocomplete Entries If Defamatory [washingtonpost.com]
Google expressed surprise and disappointment at the decision, noting that the autocomplete function merely reflects what other users have searched for.

The company noted that the court hadnít ordered Google to turn off the autocomplete function or to vet all results in advance. Instead, Google has to ensure that defamatory results are checked, and if necessary removed, as soon as they have been brought to its attention, the court said.
7:23 pm on May 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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"Gosh! I had no idea there was information about {name of famous person} + {despicable act beginning with same letter as famous person's home town}. There must be something in it; let me see for myself."

Excluding auto-suggestions strikes me as a perfectly reasonable compromise. It's like saying "There's a rumor that such-and-such." True or not-- If there wasn't a rumor before, there is now.

Hm. Food for thought. If autocomplete were sorted by number of results, rather than number of searches, wouldn't that also make it more useful?
7:35 pm on May 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Actually some german tabloids have fabricated stories purely out of Google Auto Suggest:

There is a german watchblog that has documented some of the cases, for example this story about a minor german celebrity:
[topfvollgold.de...]

"Alcohol shock - Who can help him now".

The story turns out to be that the first suggestions on Google have to do with alcohol and alcohol abuse - meaning there must be something to it when so many people are searching for "celebrity name + alocolism"
7:59 pm on May 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I never liked the auto complete, I would rather have my own typing's shown
8:48 pm on May 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It often has its uses and can easily be overridden anyway.
10:54 pm on May 15, 2013 (gmt 0)



But will google comply? I seem to remember numerous examples of courts ordering personal names to be removed and it just not happening.
12:21 am on May 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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goog says, that the autocomplete results only reflect the number of searches.

but one can expect many searchers primarily react on the given search suggestions (as that's their purpose) and search for them partly out of pure curiosity. so actually it's a self-reinforcing process that often leads to all kinds of unexpected and erroneous results appearing in the suggestions.

although this maybe wasn't exactly the point the court has made, considering the above i tend to support this ruling.

[edited by: moTi at 12:25 am (utc) on May 16, 2013]

12:25 am on May 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It often has its uses


Not for me.

and can easily be overridden anyway.


Without signing in to Google first?
1:04 am on May 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Without signing in to Google first?

Uhm, sure. You just need to find the search prefs-- which are increasingly hard to locate. I'm glad I put Advanced Search on my bookmarks bar years ago; I doubt I'd be able to find it today. Especially if I didn't already know it existed.
4:11 am on May 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It's a crying shame that "isDefamatory();" isn't a program function that anybody could possibly ever create.
8:27 am on May 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Without signing in to Google first?

I call it typing over or deleting what I don't want.

Never a problem for me. The SERPS might be an entirely different matter in this modern era.
3:37 pm on May 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Autocomplete results often feel like something spammers have been gaming for kicks, anyway. There are some truly bizarre ones that I can't imagine are a common search, but are probably someone's idea of funny.

Since autocomplete can be gamed, a spammer could easily start a defamatory rumor about a public figure. I don't blame the court for expecting Google to fix that "when it's brought to their attention." Surely that's not unreasonable.

The courts are increasingly expecting Google to add some human oversight to the SERPs, and I take it Google resists this because it doesn't scale - humans can only check so much so quickly. While I get their position, it's just not practical - especially for a de facto monopoly that gets held to a higher standard than smaller companies.
5:41 pm on May 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

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It's a crying shame that "isDefamatory();" isn't a program function that anybody could possibly ever create.


I happen to agree with you, but if I were the German Court, and Google tried to argue that, I would refer them to their own claims...

Domain-specific sentiment classification [google.com]

Large-scale sentiment analysis [google.com]

Or, more generally about their claims of being able to discern "quality content", which is more difficult :)
10:25 pm on May 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Uhm, sure. You just need to find the search prefs-- which are increasingly hard to locate. I'm glad I put Advanced Search on my bookmarks bar years ago; I doubt I'd be able to find it today. Especially if I didn't already know it existed.


I thought I had autocomplete disabled in my Google prefs, but when I switched to a more recent (Mozilla) browser they started up again. <shrug>

I just started using a search box in the browser (that way I can skip the perdy custom logos about Millard Fillmore's birthday too).
4:25 am on May 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Food-for-thought follow-up:

Over the weekend I had to deploy the search engine to find out why on earth Judge Mathis, who is usually pretty easy-going, threw a particular witness out of the TV courtroom even though he hadn't done anything to offend. As soon as I started typing, it became obvious that either several million other people wondered the same thing, or the guy actually is famous. But even though I grabbed the first suggestion, the search results didn't fit. They were just random pages containing the various words in the search. The optimal results were buried further down.

Later on it occurred to me that I hadn't changed my filters from their default "moderate". (In the circumstances, this was probably just as well.)

Speculative question: Is it possible that autosuggest works on a pool of all searches, independent of filtering, so it may not even be relevant to your own individual search?

I realize this is somewhat o/t, but I really really do not want to start a thread with this question. Maybe if the search had been something innocuous involving the Muppets...
3:21 pm on May 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Speculative question: Is it possible that autosuggest works on a pool of all searches, independent of filtering, so it may not even be relevant to your own individual search?


That would make sense - I've had similar experiences to yours, where I picked autocomplete thinking "Great, this is sure to be just what I was after" only to have a total "huh?" moment when I saw the results.
 

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