Google's Legal Responsibility Concerning Defamatory Content It Crawls

from the whose-fault? dept

Someone from domain registrar dotWORLDS submitted their own press release about how they’re filing a lawsuit against Google for defamation and slander — but looking over the details, you have to question dotWORLDS’ legal standing here. The actual complaint isn’t entirely clear — and even the company admits in the press release that its own legal standing is shaky, at best. The complaint is that Google somehow “refuses to address libel” on its website — but that’s not quite true. Google is simply a search engine. If another site is posting libelous information, then that site can be sued. It’s not Google’s fault for finding the page. It is true that the original page was removed and remained in Google’s index for some time, but that’s a function of how search engines work, and hardly seems likely to make Google liable. At the same time, as if to reinforce the ridiculousness of the suit, the company admits that if it wins, it could mean Google (and, we presume, every other search engine) would need to scrutinize every website that goes into its index. So far, the law is pretty clear that service providers aren’t liable for any third party content that goes into their platform — so it’s unlikely that Google has any responsibility, no matter how much this company might wish it were so.

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Comments on “Google's Legal Responsibility Concerning Defamatory Content It Crawls”

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Eric Aitala says:


The real problem is getting search engines to remove cached information. I have had to do this because of things like SSNs. Try finding anything more than an email address to contact for most search sites. Finding a real live person who can do anything is impossible.

And then it takes days, if not weeks, for the material to be removed.


Jean says:

Google & Defamation

You repeat the Google mantra invented by their CEO. However, after that CNet journalist Google-ed their CEO and presented findings in an article, Google went nuts.
And let’s not forget that Google not only “organizes information that’s already out there” – they also archive it in their cache. So some Web site may have a link to this defaming content stored in Google cache, which is as defaming as is the original content posted on the defaming site (which Google scanned and cached).

dotWORLDS (user link) says:

Google - dotWORLDS Libel Claim

Dear Mike
May we add a short note to your comments
It is a fact that following dotWORLDS defamation complaint, Google began withdrawing several links from its Search Engine. Although this process has taken and is taking an inordinate amount of time, we calculate that something like 1500 separate items have now been deleted from their records. (You can even see some of Google’s own notes to this effect, published on their websites referring users to
Whilst we take on board your comments, we believe that this is not the end of the story (we cannot go into more detail at this time). Furthermore, it seems that the rules are quietly being tightened as more and more attention is drawn to the problem – eg the recent matter relating to Seigenthaler and Wikipedia.
Of course it is impossible to confront the author of an anonymous posting if you do not know who he/she/it is. So what would happen if someone, unsigned, were to libel you on the Internet claiming you to be a thief and a criminal. Google could have that ?information? published on its website almost immediately and it could remain there for the next 30 years. Would you settle for no right of redress?
Yes, there are easier jobs than taking on Google, but all that we have ever asked of them is that they kindly finish the job that they already started.
We are still asking them

WrongSolution says:

Re: Sue The Libelist Not A Search Tool

It is not Google’s fault that anonymity exists. The bottom line is that Google did NOT make libelist statements against you and you are wrong to sue them. If it is that important to you, get a court order for the logs of the website and sue the libelist. Otherwise suck it up – remember that if it is libel it means it is not true, and truth ultimately wins.

Overcast says:


Then they are equally guilty.

If you check their main page in the source, you’ll find a link to in the code – at the very end.

Well, if you go to – they have google ads – linking back to google. So from the ‘linking’ perpective, they are – themselves linking back to google, by proxy.

That – and check their ‘FAQ’ – I found this.

Will my domain name appear on Google?

We are currently setting up a system for spidering these sites on Google. Users will be advised when the system is ready by a newsletter.

Keep your e-mail of registrations always working to receive the dotWORLDS newsletter. top

If that’s not lame – I’m not sure what is.

Scott says:

The precedent has already been set…

A few years ago I purchased a house, my first foray into being a homeowner. As it turns out, a man that had owned the house about ten years prior had robbed a bank and fled the country.

One day I had a knock at the door, when I answered it I found the local sheriff at my door waiting to handcuff me. Turns out that they didn’t think they would ever actually catch the man, but they did know that he had once lived at my address. They got to punish someone I guess. I should be out of jail by the time I’m 75, but I guess that’s just how this stuff works.

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