Another day, another auto suggest lawsuit for Google. There's apparently no shortage of people, places and things being defamed by an innocent algorithm. Last year, the French courts found against Google's proprietary "Suggest" in several cases. In January of 2010, the Centre National Prive de Formation a Distance (CNFDI) was appalled
that "Google" would suggest the word "scam" be linked to its initials. This was also the case with Direct Energie, (another) French company, who also felt that "scam" should not be algorithmically appended to searches for its business. Later in the year, the French courts did what they do best: blame Google for its users' actions, finding it guilty of libel for somehow linking
the words "rapist," "satanist" and "convicted" to searches pertaining to a certain convicted sex offender.
Then France invited Google to take its suggested (by its users) search terms and stop suggesting them when users searched for music or movies. The courts lost this one, but Google went ahead and kept on censoring
, most likely seeing this as the path of least resistance, especially when it came to the famous French Resistance (Post-Internet Edition).
And it's not just France. An Italian man sued Google (and won)
because searches for his name came with bonus features like "con man" and "fraud."
Of course, all of this is old news. In fact, people have been suing Google for its suggestions (none of which are its own) since the dawn of time (ca. 2006), when ServrCheck sued
the search engine giant for its willingness to tack on "keygen" and "crack" to searches for its software.
With all that history behind it, there should be no surprised noises or raised eyebrows from anyone regarding this latest bit of news. Now it's an Irish hotel's turn to step up to the Complaint Box
and file a grievance. This suit brings an all-new term to the "Google Suggest Hall O' Libelous Shame": "receivership." Apparently, people searching for information on the Ballymascanion Hotel are finding "receivership" high up on the Autocomplete list. Now, it's not the people that have an issue with this. After all, the "people" are the ones who put it there. Rather, it's the hotel itself that's upset about being linked to something as tawdry as "receivership," but rather than issue a press release or update its Facebook page or whatever, it's decided to drag Google and its terrible Suggestions into the courtroom.
Now, it's been said before
at Techdirt (and several other places) that this isn't Google's doing. The suggestions that show up in the search field are based on what people are actually searching for. But obviously you can't hold everyone liable for unintentionally disparaging your business while trying to ensure their money doesn't end up in the pockets of "con men," "scammers" and "frauds." Google really shouldn't be expected to tweak its algorithm to fit each individual user, much less be forced into laundering someone or something's unsavory reputation by deleting terms the users don't care for. But as long as the courts keep siding with the "victims," "victims" will keep dragging Google into court for something it isn't doing.