Google found guilty of defamation

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LONDON - Google has been convicted of defaming a sex offender in France after the search engine giant linked his name to the word “rapist” in automatic web searches.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found to have been defamed by Google’s “suggest” function, the Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

The Superior Court of Paris found Google and its chief executive Eric Schmidt guilty of the “public slandering of a private individual”.

Google said it would appeal the decision. “Google does not suggest these terms,” a spokeswoman said.

Court documents said the function, which suggests options and phrases as a user types, linked the man’s identity to words including “rapist”, “satanist”, “rape”, and “prison”, the report said.

According to French reports, the man was convicted of the “corruption of a minor” and sentenced to three years in jail earlier this year.

Despite appealing his conviction, the man discovered his name was linked by the search function to the phrases.

The court ruled the man had been defamed because he is considered innocent under French law until all of his appeals have been exhausted.

The US company, based in Mountain View, California, was ordered to pay damages to the man after he sued for libel.

In its decision handed down earlier this month, the court also ordered the company to remove the “harmful” suggestions from the search and adopt measures to prevent it from reoccurring.

The decision comes as Google fights a series of lawsuits worldwide, including several copyright disputes in other European countries involving its YouTube service.

The company is currently appealing against the conviction of three employees who were found guilty of violating Italian privacy laws.

A trial was told the trio posted footage on Google Video that showed a Down’s syndrome teenager being bullied by four other boys at a school in Turin.

In an interview last month Schmidt, 55, predicted that in the future, Google will know so much about its users that the search engine will be able to help them plan their lives.

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