Child attacker wins defamation case against Google

A French man sued Google because typing in his name resulted in search suggestions for “rapist,” “satanist,” “rape,” and “prison.” The court today ruled against Google in the defamation suit.

In what could either be a landmark ruling or one of the most easily overturned decisions ever, the French court ordered Google to 5,000 euros ($6734) in damages.

The man, whose name has not been publicly released, was reportedly found guilty earlier this year for counts of “corruption of a minor.” As a result, when users punch in his name in Google’s search bar, the engine pops up with search suggestions like “rape” and “rapist.”

The man sued over this, and won. The court found that Google was guilty of “public slandering of a private individual.”

The ruling ordered Google to remove the “harmful” suggestions from its site and ordered the company to enact measures such that it couldn’t happen again.

First off, these suggestions are algorithm-based and not something Google did out of malice or ill intent. Secondly, apparently there’s no such thing as “truth” for defense against defamation in France. Even the largest Google cynics must surely see this ruling is crazy on the face of it. As expected, Google is appealing the decision.

“These searches are algorithmically determined based on a number of purely objective factors including (the) popularity of search terms. Google does not suggest these terms. All of the queries shown in Autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users,” said Google in a statement.