Court Says Search Engines Not Making Things Disappear The Moment They're Deleted From Third-Party Sites Not 'Defamation'

from the the-definition-of-'tort'-is-NOT-'something-I-don't-personally-li dept

Eric Goldman brings the news of another misguided defamation lawsuit brought against search engines (plaintiff sued Google and Yahoo separately). The problem isn’t that Google or Yahoo failed to comply with takedown requests. (There weren’t any involved.) It was that the plaintiff — Keyonna Ferrell — deleted stuff she had posted to Pinterest and it kept showing up in search results for a few months after she vanished away the… well, I will now quote the complaint directly because anything otherwise wouldn’t do it justice.

The facts of this case are:

I have a pininterest page. I changed it around Feb 5th of 2015. Before I put all the celebrity stuff up. I changed my screen name from Keyonna Ferrell to K Ferrell and the picture I had up for a week was also removed from pininterest. I have an email of the exact I did this But its vague. I have another emil from pininterest with proof it was removed but its in March. I will copy the emails below. The pictures were removed about 6 weeks after I complained but it was way too long. I have three threads all sent to legal they are not one message sent in one day they are messages sometimes once a day sometimes two and three times to legal a day over the course of three months google. Changed it settings, this is my email these are the threads. I usally send a copy to myself of each emails sent to google but all these emails were sent to LEGAL you cant tell unless you click inside. That’s google for you. They changed their settings when I started taking pictures. I have pasted emails below. I am STILL having problems with them due to the page people are retaliating I ve been to four different hotels ive dealt wit stolen property, defemation of character, privacy being taken (picture wa deleted before celebrity went up pininterest and google resurfaced the images A month after I deleted it off my page) Defamation of character.

So, the crux of the case is that Google and Yahoo took “too long” to “forget” photos Keyonna Ferrell posted publicly on a third party’s website. But nothing she alleges adds up to the injury she’s claiming.

Ferrell alleges that she put information on the internet that remained accessible through the Yahoo search engine and thus available for viewing by the public after she had removed the images from Pinterest. She also alleges that a video not associated with her appears among search results based on her name. Nothing about this allegation suggests that the information made available was false. Ferrell therefore fails to state a claim for defamation.

Goldman notes that this is an interesting claim (albeit “interesting” in a way that pro se filings often are).

The court doesn’t say how many days elapsed between the alleged Pinterest removals and Google/Yahoo’s alleged failure to update their search database, nor do we know if Google and Yahoo had good reasons for delaying their deletions. I do know we’d see many dubious lawsuits if plaintiffs can sue search engines for taking too long to delete removed items from their databases.

This would be a ridiculous outcome, but all it takes is one significant case. This isn’t it. As Goldman notes, US law differs significantly from the European legal interpretations of search engines’ obligations in light of the “right to be forgotten” decision. Were that applicable here, Ferrell may have been successful in claiming damages for “delays” by third parties unrelated to the service where the content was originally posted.

If you’re interested in reading some more of Keyonna Ferrell’s legal excursions, she has also sued Quality Inn for… something. All I know is it revolves around a misplaced phone charger, some guy named TBOY, a missing roll of toilet paper, an unrecovered stash of personal documents and many, many incidents in which people failed to take Ferrell seriously.

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Companies: google, pinterest, yahoo

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Comments on “Court Says Search Engines Not Making Things Disappear The Moment They're Deleted From Third-Party Sites Not 'Defamation'”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s why I used “may remain” and not “will remain”. Still it was both luck it wasn’t archived before removal and awesome because you asked politely and the site owner was awesome to remove it. I haven’t had the same luck with one tiny thing I asked to be removed. Nothing serious though. It is an e-mail address that was posted publicly and ensued a spammer hell in my inbox, now mostly under control.

PaulT (profile) says:

Obviously an egocentric moron, but this was the funniest bit:

“She also alleges that a video not associated with her appears among search results based on her name”

As someone with an extremely common first and last name, it’s highly amusing that someone would think they should only see things associated with them on a search. Even if her name was unique in the world, if a Mr & Mrs Ferrell decided to call their new daughter Keyonna tomorrow, there should be no reason why the latter shouldn’t be returned in Google results.

I bet she was too dumb to put her name in quotes either, meaning that she was probably getting a result for Will, Colin or other popular Ferrell/Farrells following those specifically containing her full name.

However, I do hope she enjoys the results of this lawsuit. Searching Google now, I’m seeing very few links that aren’t reporting on the judgement here and/or pointing out how much of a moron she is. The 10th result I see is a birth record for someone born in 2009 with the name Keyonna Ranea Ferrell, so no, she’s not even as unique in the world as she thought, after all.

Anonymous Coward says:

The more obscure, the longer it takes

A search engine is not magic. It works by downloading a page, seeing what it links to, downloading these pages… For it to notice that a page has been updated, it has to download the page again.

There are billions of pages in the Internet. Even for the all-powerful Google, it takes some time to revisit a page. The trick is that it prioritizes the pages it revisits. Important pages like Wikipedia or a newspaper homepage are revisited more often; less important pages like the pinterest page for an obscure nobody will take a longer time to be revisited.

If I’m reading the incoherent complaint right, it took only 6 weeks for Googlebot (Google’s spider) to automatically revisit the page and notice the changes. For an obscure page out of the billions in the Internet, that’s quite fast.

fairuse (profile) says:

Re: It seems she has form for this sort of thing

I read the “My Life” opinion after reading the “Quality Inn & Police Officers” complaint filing.

First, I thought this person needs a doctor. Playing, “I’m not a lawyer but I play one in real life.” is foolhardy.

Second, knowing absolutely nothing about the person except for what I read I’ll say there is something unbalanced in thinking every one of the hotel’s staff is out to get her.

Third, she forgets “document bag” at each hotel. Thinks little things like missing bathroom tissue is taken by staff. Wants her way with hotel’s staff and a guest at 0400 in the morning.

Plus, nobody in their right mind writes a screenplay idea as facts supporting the claim. I kinda feel bad for the judge, however, since I’m figuratively barfing in Mz Ferrell’s shoes after reading her word soup it doesn’t matter what I think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It seems she has form for this sort of thing

Second, knowing absolutely nothing about the person except for what I read I’ll say there is something unbalanced in thinking every one of the hotel’s staff is out to get her.

Well, they almost certainly weren’t, then.
But today… well, today might be another story…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Tim left the rest of that sentence under a chair cushion in his room at the Holiday Inn. He can’t go get it because hey, everybody needs toilet paper (especially if it’s a brand new roll). While this is of no concern of mine, what’s your Social Security Number? Now I have thing to do on my computer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I called the police because they handle. They said I had the wrong number and that I called a pizza place, I became suspicious so I hung up and called from another phone but before I got to it someone was humming which made me realize they were retaliating against me so I checked into a new hotel with an assumed name and went to sleep because I was tired.

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