Max Mosley knows a thing or two about scandal. After an alleged "Nazi-themed" sex party was caught on tape and delivered to the entire world via News of the World
(and the internet in general), Mosely attempted to wrangle an injunction out of the UK courts. It was pointed out that the "dam had already burst," thus rendering an injunction useless.
Undeterred, Mosley attempted to have a law crafted that would require that certain people (rich, famous, rich and famous) be notified by newspapers
, etc. ahead of the publication of possibly damning information, presumably to allow said rich/famous people to file injunctions preventing the publication. Needless to say, this also failed
But Max is nothing if not determined. Mosley is now bringing lawsuits against Google in France, Germany and for some reason, California
in order to prevent the further spread of the Nazi sex party story.
In his testimony at the Levinson Inquiry
, Mosley clarified his legal "strategy:"
I think we have litigation going on in 22 or 23 countries at the moment, and it's just an ongoing process because -- I mean I'm trying to do everything I can to get this material removed from the web and it's not easy, it's ongoing, it's very expensive, but Germany is actually the number one example. Because of the Nazi thing, it got very much picked up in Germany.
Yes. Well, Germany is still rather touchy about its position as world's greatest villain for years 1939-1945.
One of the difficulties is that Google have these automatic search machines so if somebody puts something up somewhere, if you Google my name, it will appear. We've been saying to Google, you shouldn't do this, this material is illegal, these pictures have been ruled illegal in the English High Court. They say we're not obliged to police the web and we don't want to police the web, so we have brought proceedings against them in France and Germany where the jurisprudence is favourable. We're also considering bringing proceedings against them in California.
As automatic as Google's "search machines" are, they don't add n to x randomly. If something shows up in the search results, it's because something exists on the internet. Whether or not these pictures were ruled illegal by a high court has nothing to do with Google's search engine. If the pictures are still available on the web, then Google will find them. The attempt to grant a search engine some sort of anthropomorphic properties (including a vindictive streak) is imaginative but hardly a sound basis for a legal battle. Notice also: proceedings are being brought where "jurisprudence is favourable," rather than for any sort of logical reasons.
But the fundamental point is that Google could stop this material appearing, but they don't, or they won't as a matter of principle. My position is that if the search engines -- if somebody were to stop the search engines producing the material, the actual sites don't really matter because without a search engine, nobody will find it, it would be just a few friends of the person who posts it. The really dangerous thing are the search engines.
Mosley, I'm going to give you the benefit of a doubt. Perhaps you just misworded your statement. Search engines don't "produce" anything. They can bring you results, but they do not produce content. (And when they do start producing content, I assume we'll hear even more whining from content producers, rather than less.) So, search engines aren't "dangerous." They're agnostic. Or impartial. Or (if we're granting them human qualities) "unemotional" and "uncreative."
Mosley is himself a lawyer. And he has engaged the services of other lawyers. Now, either somebody in this group is thrilled with the possibility of endless billable hours or no one involved understands search engines. Simply put, this legal battle will have no end. Every time Mosley files a suit or testifies in court, new articles appear linking him to the very event he's trying to get the collective internet to forget. If he would stop trying to make it all go away, chances are it would recede into the metaphoric past at a much faster rate. Right now, he's stuck in a loop and he's trying to sue his way out of it.
If Mosley is acting as the advisor for his legal team, he's in trouble. Here's a quote from his official statement that was presented to the inquiry:
It is sometimes assumed that the Internet is not subject to the law - that it operates as a sort of Wild West with its own rules which the courts cannot touch. This is a fallacy. The Internet and those that use it are clearly subject to the law like everyone else. It may sometimes be difficult to enforce the law because of the international nature of the Internet. But that is a separate question.
Ah. The Wild West
. We never tire of hearing the internet compared to a dusty, corpse-strewn, sepia-toned image of the past. If anything, it's more like international waters, where national laws can't stake a claim, where gambling using funds from offshore accounts is rampant, pirate ships laden with freshly burned DVDs dot the waves and bottled water prices exceed even the most ruthless rave promoter's dreams. Or maybe it's more like Sealand, an offshore community that respects no national law and in return, is respected only by budding teen anarchists and people who think Neuromancer
We make a shopkeeper or a publican responsible for what they sell and to whom. There is no reason not to do the same to Internet service providers.
Another terrible analogy which makes one wonder whether Mosley is going to target ISPs if the Google lawsuits fail to produce the intended results. Blaming Google for unpleasant search results is a bit like blaming the guy manning the porn store counter for bringing you the porn you asked for. And blaming the ISPs for not preventing unwanted content from existing is like blaming the porn store for porn. Either way, it is not the responsibility of "search machines" or "shopkeepers" to police the internet to protect you from stuff. The internet does not exist to protect your reputation. Even if Mosley's recounting of the events is entirely factual and that the tabloid manufactured the situation for loosely termed blackmail, his complaint should begin and
end with the offending publication. The dissemination of this sordid business is not the responsibility of Google, Internet service providers or a lack of a tamed "Wild West." And every piece of litigation only adds to the very thing Mosley is trying to subtract.