back to article Google ordered to pay out for automated defamation

Google has been ordered to pay €5,000 to a Frenchman who claimed he was libelled by automatic suggestions on Google's home page. The man, who has not been named, said anyone searching for his name on was presented with suggestions including "rapist:, "rape" and "prison", according to Le Monde. The court found Google …


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  1. Ihre Papiere Bitte!!


    One money-making idea coming right up!

    1. Google (own name) + (nasty word) * 1,000

    2. Take screen shots of suggestions including search term

    3. Sue Google for ONE MILLION DOLLARS

    4. Profit!!!

    And there's not even a ??? In sight!

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    A frenchman who didn't surrender?

    But I suspect he's shot himself in both feet.

  3. Natalie Gritpants

    Happens to lots of people

    Get over it.

    Yours faithfully,

    Ian Adequate

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's a weird one...

    If upheld, the search engines are going to cack their pants. It's not like they can call up a court every time a search is run, just to check it doesn't defame in any way. They could cull out stuff, for example, that mentioned in the article, but to cover ALL the possible defamation bases would be impossible.

  5. Thomas 18


    I think you are responsible for the content your algorithm serves up, even if it originally came from other users.

    Wasn't there a ruling recently that said if you did any moderation at all then you were responsible for ALL contributed content regardless of whether you saw that bit. I'm sure Google do enough reviewing / adjustments of search suggestions to qualify for this.

    1. Laie Techie

      Buy African Slaves?

      It wasn't too long ago when searching on the term "African slaves" returned links to "Buy African Slaves". Algorithms need to be monitored and improved to avoid such mistakes.

      The Frenchman in question was convicted of "corrupting a minor", so he *might* have served time in prison, in which case the suggested search was legit. Did the corruption include rape? If so, Google's algorithm was within acceptable limits on that suggestion, too.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Just so you know....they're still selling them in Africa.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Nathan Hobbs, 27th September 2010 13:23 GMT

      your post have been entered in the computation for the most ignorant comment on el'Reg for the 3Q of 2010.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        At least...

        he has the courage of his us the stats that prove him wrong...

    2. Loki 1

      Cut off Russia?

      No way! You'd loose 90% of your porn then! Won't someone please think of the masturbators?

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      by that argument.....

      you'd cut of USA as most spam comes from there

      1. Anonymous Coward


        But I don't LIKE spam...

    4. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Cut the Internet into (at least) two pieces.

      You know, I do vote that France strike out on it's own Internet. I suspect Germany (amongst others) would join them. It's not France's morals and ideals I have a problem's those of the United States. I'm perfectly happy to participate in an Internet that is basically "Whole World with the exception of the US." In my opinion it is the US that isn’t culturally advanced enough to play nice with the grown ups.

      Other countries, (such as France) have some pretty strong beliefs as regards things like the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They value things like privacy, accountability and other things which I too hold dear. The truth is, not everyone values the same things. There are people in this world who view the UDHR as some sort of [insert insult of their choice] plot to strip them personally of their god-given right to [whatever it is they are terrified of never being allowed to do.]

      Some people believe in commercial advancement above all else. Others believe – as the founders of Google seem to have publicly claimed to believe – that “privacy is dead.” For some, “think of the children” is the rallying cry: any and all liberties may be removed if it buys us a sense of safety.

      There are some elements of French law that I don’t happen to agree with. Their implementation of Three Strikes for example grinds me the wrong way. Overall though, France (like Germany) values the rights of the individual over those of corporate entities or those of the state. No country is perfect; no belief system pure or without fault. In my opinion however, I’d sooner do without the US’s global influence than with France.

      Cultural maturity then is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

    5. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Nathan Hobbs

      Top of Yahoo!'s "I should read this picks" - # Arctic trip caused Church & Henson split and # Katie 'used phone while driving'. What sort of loser actually GIVES a damn? Bye bye United Kingdom.

      Bye bye everybody using MSIE6, or indeed MSIE of any flavour.

      Bye bye people using mobile phones, get a REAL computer for god's sake.

      Bye bye Australia... if they haven't pulled the plug themselves.

      Bye bye Thailand, Japan, China... can't read your writing.

      Bye bye Canada, don't need knock-off meds thank you.


      The problem with ill-informed knee-jerk pissant wannabe censorship is once you start, you can find reasons to get rid of everybody except yourself. A billion megabits all to yourself would be pretty damn boring if all that remained was....

      PS: I live in France. Some guy managed to sue Google for an auto-defamation. Whoo.

  7. Titus Aduxass

    Can of worms?

    "Google said suggestions were based on other people's searches"

    Surely this means people can influence the suggestions Google volunteers.

    Can everyone spend the rest of the day typing "Titus Aduxass kisses gerbil's bottoms" into Google please. Then I can sue Google for defamation too :-D

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: "Titus Aduxass kisses gerbil's bottoms"

      Actually that already returns a hit, your post.

      Google's web crawler is really on the case today.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Titus Aduxass kisses gerbil's bottoms.

      But only when he's high on crack.

      You can buy me a pint when you get your compo.

  8. disco123

    Do no evil

    google's joking motto: do no evil.

    Scrutinize yourself, google.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      "Scrutinize yourself, google"?

      "Google, index thyself" surely...

  9. Guus Leeuw


    Where did you get €5000, dear reporter?

    The article says €500 per noted failure and day within one month.

    So, we have €500 per noted failure... There are 5 noted failures, that's é2500. The article was published on September 23rd, we're now 27th, so that's 4 days difference, so we take the é2500 and multiply by 4, making €10000.

    Now, of course, the poor soul has judges as friends and the appeal court will sit on its decision for about 10 months, slamming the appeal down, and re-instating the original ruling.... How much? Oh, use the calculator on your shoulders.

  10. Jon Press

    But not Google France

    Weirdly, it appears that Eric Schmidt, an employee of Google France, has been found personally liable together with Google, Inc., but that Google France itself was found not to be liable.

    Google have a month to remove dissociate Mr. X and autosuggestions of rape and satanism or face a further E500 per day fine.

    Incidentally, as I understand the summary on, although the E5,000 is a statutory penalty, the amount awarded specifically in damges to Mr. X was 1 Euro....

  11. Anonymous Coward

    kiddy fiddler

    So this guy has previously been charged with corrupting a minor (aka statutory rape) and he complains when google highlight this fact. Facts are facts, hang him by his balls!

    1. TimeMaster T

      Facts ...

      "charged with" != "convicted of"

      Maybe that is why this person is so pissed about the situation. Perhaps he is innocent of the charges and is sick of people jumping to wrong conclusions about it.

      Or he may be guilty. That is for a court to decide.

      1. Pablo

        Good point but...

        This says he WAS convicted. Still, "corrupting a minor" isn't the same as rape, so I can see why he'd be upset. It's an interesting situation though. On the one hand obviously Google wasn't deliberately trying to defame him, but they did write the algorithm. Should "the algorithm made me do it" be an absolute defense? Or should Google still take some responsibility?

        1. david 12

          Corrupting a minor

          In France, "corrupting a minor" means that you paid for sex (illegal), rather than getting it free (legal) using the well-known criteria that paying for sex is inherently immoral.

          I don't know the details of this particular case.

    2. Tzael

      Re: kiddy fiddler

      The girl was 17, in the UK that's perfectly legal. Okay so in France the law is different, however now we know that the victim was 17 at the time we can speculate from a much more informed basis.

      In the UK, a place called Fort William is populated by girls who have the bodies of 21 year-olds but the faces of 14 year-olds. You literally can't tell the age of many of the girls there. Easy to see how someone might get caught out there. Similarly in Newquay, Cornwall the Friday/Saturday night clubbers comprise heavily of underage teens who are tarted up for their night of debauchery. Again, easy for someone to be caught out.

      I don't know the full facts of this case, so what on earth gives me the right to make judgement based on assumptions? All I know is that the victim of this guy's crime was 17 at the time, and there is no information available to me that indicates if she was a willing participant, led him on, was kidnapped and taken somewhere in the boot of a car, etc etc. You get the idea.

  12. Colin Miller tits-up

    A slight tangent, but it appears that and have gone tits-up.,2817,2369346,00.asp

  13. Anonymous Coward

    All they need to do... make sure proper names don't get suggestions next to them. Improper names are a different matter.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All that searching he was doing to find out if anyone was linking his name with "rapist", "rape" or "prison" and now Google assumes he means those things when he searches?

    How many people does he think are searching for his name? Can Google link some/any/all of the searches used to make the recommendations to his IP?

  15. lord_farquaad

    some details

    ok, so Mr X is not Mr anybody. He is said to be Pierre Bellanger, CEO of a French radio that has turned into a big web blogging company (skyrock).

    A link with some information about his story ...

    1. Displacement Activity


      ...we can get more information from David Icke's website?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Color me confused

      That says she way 17, but that age of consent in France is 15. So if I understand correctly, had he simply fucked her it would have been fine. Obviously then, "corrupting a minor" is not the same as statutory rape. So what IS it then? I realize this is mostly beside the point, but now I'm curious.

      Admittedly an S&M orgy with her sister *does* sounds pretty corrupt.

  16. lord_farquaad
    Big Brother


    Then, if you read the complete judgement (, and you are native speaker, you will understand the "people condemned" :

    - Eric S. (as it is stated although the 'directeur de la publication" of a French web site can not be anonymised

    - Google Inc

    (Google France is not condemned because Google Inc is directly responsible for running

    to pay :

    - 5.000Euros for the costs to go to court

    - 1 Euro of damages (M. Bellanger had asked for 100.000 Euros)

    - 500 Euros per day and per occurence starting one month after the judgement (so should be october 8th)

    I imagine that an occurence is when one of the following terms

    " “M. X... viol”,

    - “M. X... condamné”,

    - “M. X... sataniste”,

    - “M. X... prison”,

    - “M. X... violeur"

    appears on Google suggest after having typed the name of this person (and you can judge by yourself now cause it still works). So I imagine it's a maximum of 2.500Euros max per day.

  17. lord_farquaad

    one last thing

    Sorry for that, but this Mr X is the head of the blogging company most teenagers in France have been using the last 4 years. He is also the head of a radio plenty of French teenagers are listening to.

    That's why it is worrying to learn what this person is capable of ...

  18. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    Mange le merde**, Frog

    Just another troll trying to make money.

    ** Phrase used by Pierre Trudeau to striking postmen in 1984.

  19. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Corrupting a minor is pretty vague and could actually include rapist and paedophile.

    This man might have just sued and won against Google for something that was in the papers a while ago.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Defamtation - a lighter note...

    From the Airline industry

    The algorithm that converts a 4 byte hex file address into a 6 alpha-numeric locator for the Passenger used to give us some amusement.

    Once had to patch a Concorde passenger's locator originally dispensed as:


    to avoid causing offence.

    In the end the Manager took the most foul-mouthed and perverted programmers and got them to come up with a "do not give out this locator" table full of possibly offensive locators.

    If Google are interested, then I'm still available.

  21. heyrick Silver badge

    Just a thought...

    Streisand effect?

  22. zar athustra
    Jobs Horns

    Sounds like it wasn't entirely unwarranted...

    "The man in question had been previously convicted of "corrupting a minor"."

    Dirty paedo has nobody but himself to blame.

    Google: pay the onion-munching surrender-monkey scumbag nothing, nada, zilch...

  23. David Barrett


    The man in question had been previously convicted of "corrupting a minor"...

    Does he want all evidence of his crime removed from the internet? Id imagine that google instant looks for other related words when you type something in so if there are loads of articles suggesting you are a kiddie fiddler its gonna reflect that.

    Luckilly the worst that I get is a Country and western singer with the same name comming up... Wait... maybe thats worse!

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