Crazy libel action against Google
July 3, 2007
Madness I tell you!
Google has had a defamation action raised against it by a London based businessman who owns a domain registrar. This landmark legal action seeks to hold Google liable for publishing inaccurate, malicious or damaging material on the web.
It’s the first case of it’s kind in the UK that seeks to make a search engine responsible for the content on the web. If successful it could trigger massive restrictions on the freedom of information online.
The case states that the search engine directed users to web pages that the domain registrar claims contain “deeply offensive and commercially damaging” material about their business.
Various postings on forums etc accuse the registrar dotWorlds of cashing in on the September 11th attacks by offering free registration of domain names to U.S. businesses and users in a way that took advantage of the patriotism at the time. In other postings, they are accused of conducting fraudulent business.
Since 2003, the owner of the registrar claims that Google has removed various posts to its own discussion groups at his request, but its search engine continues to turn up links to offensive third-party sites. If Google doesn’t give him a written promise to permanently remove the links, he plans to sue them.
Google would be protected by the first amendment if the action was in the U.S. but in the UK it’s not yet been seen if internet companies have the same protection.
If the the suit is successful, it could have widespread consequences – not just for search engines but for all sorts of other internet service providers that link to third-party content.
Crazy! I can understand Google having to remove content on it’s own groups etc but to have to police the content of web pages that they have control over is madness. Imagine the filtering they’d have to put in place and after everyone else with a libel issue filed suit it would become an unmanageable task.
I sincerely hope this isn’t successful. The domain registrar in question should seek to prove the claims as inaccurate and use that to their advantage to quash all libellous talk rather than trying to ruin the freedom that the internet gives us all.