Google’s in trouble again over whether its Autocomplete feature is libelous – and this time complaints of anti-semitism are in the air.
The company’s being sued in France by anti-racism group SOS Racisme, on the grounds that the feature’s associating celebrities such as News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch and Mad Men star Jon Hamm with the word ‘Jew’.
“Numerous users of the premier search engine in France and the world confront daily an unsolicited and almost systematic association between the term ‘Jewish’ and the last names of prominent figures in politics, media and business,” reads the suit.
Unusually, France has banned the compilation of so-called ethnic files. And Patrick Kulgman, a lawyer for SOS Racisme, has told Agence France Presse that the Autocomplete feature facilitates ‘the creation of what is probably the biggest Jewish file in history’.
A little over a year ago, Google was successfully sued in an Italian court by a man who claimed that Autocomplete was associating his name with the words ‘con man’ and ‘fraud’.
And just last month, a Japanese man sued the company because Autocomplete was linking his name with a series of crimes, making it impossible for him to find a new job.
Google’s argument is, as ever, that Autocomplete simply compiles previous user searches to produce its suggestions. If anyone’s being libelous, in other words, it’s other Google users rather than the company itself.
But SOS Racisme has a record of persuading tech companies to remove alleged anti-semitic content. Last year, it successfully pressured Apple into removing an app from the iTunes store called ‘Jew or not Jew’.