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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.