Google Not Required to Vet Websites for Defamatory Content
A German court has ruled that the EU's "right to be forgotten" does not require search engines to verify sites are free from malicious content before listing them.
A sensible ruling out of Europe.
Reuters (“Google not obligated to vet websites, German court rules“):
Google (GOOGL.O) is not obligated to ensure websites are free from defamatory content before displaying links to them in search results, Germany’s highest court ruled on Tuesday.
The case, which comes in the context of debate about the so-called “right to be forgotten”, had been brought by two individuals seeking Google to prevent its search engine from displaying links to websites on which they were verbally attacked by other internet users.
They wanted Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, to set up search filters to keep those websites from appearing in future search results, information about the users who had posted the offending comments and payment of damages, saying Google was partly responsible for the violation of their rights.
The German Federal Court of Justice said, however, that a search engine operator need only take action if it is notified of a clearly recognizable violation of individuals’ rights, rather than checking ahead of time whether the content complies with the rules.
“Instituting a general duty to inspect the content would seriously call into question the business model of search engines, which is approved by lawmakers and wanted by society,” the court said in a statement.
“Without the help of such search engines it would be impossible for individuals to get meaningful use out of the internet due to the unmanageable flood of data it contains,” it added.
In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ruled that people could ask search engines, such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing (MSFT.O), to remove inadequate or irrelevant information from web results appearing under searches for people’s names – dubbed the “right to be forgotten”.
Google has since received requests for the removal of more than 2.4 million website links and accepted about 43 percent of them, according to its transparency report.
It’s amazing enough that Google is required to process massive amounts of delinking requests in order to serve customers in Europe. Indeed, the very notion that every single country on the planet can regulate the Internet and force companies not headquartered there to not only comply but be subject to litigation in their courts is crazy to me.