Guy Sues Google Because It Points To Articles He Claims Are Defamatory

from the you're-suing-the-wrong-party dept

Not this again. Michael Scott points us to the news of a guy in Sweden who is suing Google because he doesn’t like the links it provides when people search on his name. Indeed, it’s possible that there are defamatory blog posts about the guy, which Google has indexed, but the party to blame is whoever put up the defamatory posts — not Google. The guy doesn’t seem to care. He admits that he’s likely to lose, but he thinks he’s likely to lose because Google is big and has lots of money — not because he’s fundamentally suing the wrong party:

“This will cost me hundreds of thousands of kronor if I lose,” he said. “However, I will still go through with it and I hope that it can start a debate.”

A debate on what? Falsely blaming a third party for actions of someone else? He also claims that if he wins it means that “Google would have to take responsibility for everything they publish.” Except that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Google. Google isn’t publishing these works. It’s just indexing what’s online.

If you ask someone where the nearest McDonald’s is, and then you get food poisoning from McDonald’s, you don’t blame the guy you asked who told you where it was.

Oh, and where did he get the idea to sue Google? Of course, from the ridiculously bad Italian court ruling against Google, which will almost certainly be tossed out on appeal.

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Comments on “Guy Sues Google Because It Points To Articles He Claims Are Defamatory”

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23 Comments
Andrew Carr says:

Serious Comment

Trying to get the defamatory original articles removed is sometimes impossible due to different countries laws. For example a European trying to get a US blog/website to remove content, it feels is defamatory, can only happen if the European person starts the legal case in a US court because a European Court ruling is not seen as legally binding in the USA.

On top of that, as we recently learnt, there are lots of US protections for bloggers/journalists such as the “Shield Law”. So maybe this Swedish person has chosen to sue “Google Sweden” in his local court because he thinks it is they who are indexing a link(s) to the US content.

As we all know most employers when hiring someone often vanity search Google for the person. Again not that I agree, but if this Swedish person could force Google to blackout the defamatory links then it might help with hi next job?

Ed says:

Re: Serious Comment

I hope that wasn’t serious.
Google is 0% responsible for what is written about you on the internet. They have nothing to do with why it is posted or how it got on the internet.

You are just as crazy as the guy suing if you think this guy getting Google to black out links to his name is a good thing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Serious Comment

“On top of that, as we recently learnt, there are lots of US protections for bloggers/journalists such as the “Shield Law””

I may be wrong, but I don’t believe that those apply to content that is truly defamatory or libellous.

“So maybe this Swedish person has chosen to sue “Google Sweden” in his local court because he thinks it is they who are indexing a link(s) to the US content. “

That doesn’t make Google Sweden responsible any more than Google US. They index content on the web. Said article is on the web. Therefore, the correct thing to do is to sue the person who posted said content or ask their host to take the content down. Unless the content is not defamatory, this should be the easiest route.

“if this Swedish person could force Google to blackout the defamatory links then it might help with hi next job?”

Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps the content has been mirrored or re-reported on other sites that aren’t blocked. Perhaps the person who posted the content makes complaints on other sites, leading to a Streisand effect where such things are better known and impossible to take down. Perhaps the search is made from a manager’s home in Norway, or while he is visiting the corporate head office in the US or London. Perhaps he uses Bing or Ask to search for links as well as just Google.

There’s no guarantees, and the best way to deal with things is still to go after the person who published the content.

I know stuff.... says:

Mike: Real World Comparisons - Why they're unhelpful

“If you ask someone where the nearest McDonald’s is, and then you get food poisoning from McDonald’s, you don’t blame the guy you asked who told you where it was.”

Mike, here’s 2 reasons you (and everyone else) should stop making real world comparisons.

1) People are more familiar with the basic functionality of the internet. We get that Google provides directions like the person in the example. Making a real world comparison doesn’t add anything to that. In fact it would be more helpful if you elaborate on the function of google itself online to explain why it’s wrong. And it’s people like the plaintiff in the above case who would still try to sue the person who gave directions to McDonalds. So there’s no changing their opinion either.

2) Real world examples are misleading because they don’t encompass all the details that may prove crucial to a particular case. And what has food poisoning got to do with defamation? If that person told you that McDonalds had a sign outside defaming you and repeated its defamatory statement that seems closer. And even then, there’s no publication for the defamation from the person in the street. Whereas there potentially is for google.

There are differences in the online context, and we need to move to accept this and deal with the internet for what it is. A new medium.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Mike: Real World Comparisons - Why they're unhelpful

“People are more familiar with the basic functionality of the internet.”

Read more of the site. There are many, many comments here that suggest that some people really don’t understand it at all. Sure, some of them are trolls or lawyers trying to drum up business, but some of them aren’t. If Mike is going to address those misunderstandings, why not in the primary article, as opposed to a comment reply that the user in question may never read? I don’t see why offering a real-world example in an article about somebody whop clearly doesn’t understand how the web works is a bad thing.

“And what has food poisoning got to do with defamation? “

Yeah, I think you’re missing the point actually. The answer to your question is: nothing. The point is that just as the guy pointing you to the McD has nothing to do with what eventually happens there, Google has nothing to do with anything bad on a site that it points to. End of story.

“There are differences in the online context, and we need to move to accept this and deal with the internet for what it is. A new medium.”

Sure. As soon as morons stop attacking Google for being a “publisher”, equating copyright infringement with car theft, trying to pretend that the internet is a broadcast medium, that physical borders are as relevant as they are offline, etc., then I’m sure that will be accepted. Until then…

Ravious says:

Actually.. I feed Google NEEDS to be found guilty on this charge.. After all whats good for the goose is good for the gander.. Google had nothing more to do with those posts that torrent indexing sites had to do with pirated media.. Yes the torrent sites were still found guilty, forced to pay huge fines and shutdown.. The law can not be subjective. It cant favor one for the other. If torrent sites are guilty for indexing information on the internet.. Google then also must be guilty for indexing information on the internet…

Ravious says:

Actually.. I feed Google NEEDS to be found guilty on this charge.. After all whats good for the goose is good for the gander.. Google had nothing more to do with those posts that torrent indexing sites had to do with pirated media.. Yes the torrent sites were still found guilty, forced to pay huge fines and shutdown.. The law can not be subjective. It cant favor one for the other. If torrent sites are guilty for indexing information on the internet.. Google then also must be guilty for indexing information on the internet…

I know stuff.... says:

Mike: Real World Comparisons - Why they're unhelpful

Hey PaulT,

“Read more of the site…is a bad thing.”

It’s not a bad thing necessarily, but it’s unhelpful because we need to move away from a reliance on a comparison with the real world. ..And as for making this statement in a comment, well it’s the only User Generated Content part of the site that I know.

“Yeah, I think you’re …End of story.”

I think you’re missing the point in this one actually. I was saying if you are trying to make a real world comparison, make it compare directly. Broadly speaking, there’s the comparison in the above example that the person had nothing to do with causing the ‘bad’ that occurred. But more specifically, with the food poisoning, it would be like the person who was asked directions, fed the person the MacDonalds (as Google showed the defamatory material) who then got food poisoning. The comparison above is disingenuous, as it seems broadly to relate to the same point, but in fact misses it entirely, and misleads the easily lead reader. (Hence the suggestion to keep comparisons to the same topic, e.g. defamation.)

“Sure. As soon as … be accepted. Until then…”

I think you just made the point I was making in my whole comment. We need to stop equating copyright infringement with car theft. We need to accept Google for what it does, where it does it, and then decide IF and HOW we want to regulate that. (That’s democracy after all).

So my point again. Stop with real world comparisons.. Lets not move on and deal with the internet as being the internet. We’ve matured enough, the internet has been around long enough, and governments are about to do it for us if we don’t show them what the people want first. (On that last point, it’s a reference to proposed EU legislation ūüėČ

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