back to article Google asked to bin autocomplete results for Japanese man's name

Google has refused to co-operate with a Japanese court order to suspend autocomplete searches for a man's name. The court made the ruling against Google after the man complained that autocomplete search suggestions for his name were defaming him, by linking him with crimes he did not commit. The man's lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita …


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  1. Danny 14


    I assume google trade in Japan. Did google attend the court hearings and supply a defence?

    1. David 164

      Re: interesting

      Probably not. Other sites said Google will review the court order before responding, considering this is a local Japanese court, we can assume that Google will appeal to a higher court.

      1. dogged

        I don't see the issue

        Here's the autocomplete -


        1. Jimbo 6

          Re: I don't see the issue

          That's because :

          Hiroyuki Tomita is *the man's lawyer*, not the affected person.

          Read twice, post once.

        2. haveAnIceDay

          Re: I don't see the issue

          Hiroyuki Tomita is the man's lawyer, not the man, himself...

          1. dogged

            Re: I don't see the issue

            Good call. I'm just going to assume that his name Goatse Lemonparty-san.

            1. asdf

              Re: I don't see the issue

              Anybody that gets this joke knows just how wrong the internet can be.

              1. James O'Brien


                Agreed...though I wish I didnt get that joke...really I dont.

  2. Barely registers
    Big Brother

    Not registered here...

    It's a nice touch by Google to say that, as the company is not headquarted there, they are not subject to Japan's law.

    The USA can take down any site they like that has a .com TLD regardless of where the domain owner trades or resides. What chance being taken down by Japanese law enforcement?

    Thought so.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: What chance being taken down

      If they are openly contemptuous of the Japanese legal system, I'd have said it was a racing certainty that will disappear. It's probably the only thing the court can actually do.

      Whether that actually has *any* discernable impact on Google's operations is another matter. There's a but I imagine hardly anyone takes the time and trouble to set up their browser to use it.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: What chance being taken down

        Ken Hagan is correct.

        This is one reason why Spamhaus gave up its .com domain because .com is managed by Verisign (I think) which is a US company and subject to US laws.

        Were impacted, I think Google would consider doing this. However they have incentives not to start filtering. While they do the bare minimum, what do you think will start to happen if/when everyone else wants to get a court order to force Google to censor auto completions?

        I guess they could be held in contempt and would have to pay a fine or something...

        Or they could stop doing business in Japan all together. I wonder who would get hurt more... Japan or Google?

      2. Irongut

        Re: What chance being taken down

        Try looking in your address bar some time Ken. Google automatically redirect to your local country page.

        This kind of behaviour can be annoying some times when the web site thinks you're in a different country and you get pages in a language you can't understand and can't turn it off. I used to have problems like this when I contracted at HP who must have used a French company as ISP because all kinds of sites kept insisting I was in France, not Scotland.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: What chance being taken down

          "Try looking in your address bar some time Ken. Google automatically redirect to your local country page."

          Try thinking a bit more before posting. Where google redirects after I've gone straight to their .com portal really doesn't matter. If they didn't have the address, it could easily redirect to

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What chance being taken down

      3. Daniel 4

        Re: What chance being taken down

        Sorry Ken - your post is too accurate and sensible for the greatly diminished understanding and order of magnitude increase of petty nationalism around these parts in the last few years. You may be right, but you will still be downvoted to oblivion.


  3. ratfox

    What only autocomplete?

    Why not ask Google to also remove from their results all mention of web pages that might make him look bad? After all, if autocomplete shows these words, I assume that results for his own name show web sites related to the same words...

    I can only assume that all the people whose name is George Zimmerman are pretty unhappy with what they see on the web these days. They should sue Google, too.

  4. Shane8


    Google argues that the autocomplete results cannot violate privacy because they are automatically generated and depend on what is already available on the internet.

    Google does currently censor autocomplete results to exclude porn, violence, swear-words and searches that could lead to copyright violations. It has not yet done so for cases of personal defamation.


    wait, there is porn and violence on the internet??? Why didn't google tell me about this!

    1. pete23
      Big Brother

      You need to switch SafeSearch to GOATSE ONLY mode.

  5. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The next step

    Is presumably Google being sued for contempt of court in refusing to obey a court order.

    1. Tom Kelsall

      Re: The next step

      That's unlikely as contempt of court is a criminal matter; you can't be sued for it. However as Google are not headquartered in Japan... etc etc etc.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Sued, as in ...

        "To institute legal proceedings against (a person or institution), typically for redress"

        Not limited only to pursuing a claim for damages or similar.

  6. Thomas 18

    "causing him to be fired several years ago..."

    How about suing for wrongful termination instead?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "causing him to be fired several years ago..."

      Maybe because such a thing doesn't exist in Japan?

  7. Tom Kelsall

    Whole thing reminds me of...

    Mister Sparkle (Homer Simpson's face)

  8. Victor Ludorum
    Thumb Down

    "Google does currently censor autocomplete results to exclude [...]searches that could lead to copyright violations."

    Hmm, so what results do you get when you search for something like "inception 5.1"...

    1. David Eddleman


      <name of song/movie/etc> download

      If they do filter it, they do a piss-poor job.

  9. Keep Refrigerated
    Paris Hilton

    Search Plus Your World

    Hmm... I wonder if "Search Plus Your World" is Google's attempt to stem some of these vexatious lawsuits. By making it a default setting, eventually their algorithm might filter out the negative stuff leaving all the things you like about yourself/your business to naturally float to the top of the results.

    Whilst some might see privacy issues and other negative consequences, I can see positives. Imagine the MAFIAA finally declaring that they are going to stop their aggressive inquisition because they see that Google is no longer promoting pirates; less super-injunctions because celebrities are seeing only positive results about themselves.

    Of course, the inverse could be happening too. If the MAFIAA are constantly looking for pirate websites, that's all SPYW is going to promote - causing them to think that's all that Google ever links to...!

  10. jake Silver badge

    Hmmmm ...

    "The man's lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita told media on Sunday that the autocomplete feature on Google had ruined his client's career and job prospects, causing him to be fired several years ago and preventing him from getting new jobs."

    Methinks Hiroyuki Tomita has absolutely zero clue how TehIntraWebTubes work ... and that his client has absolutely no desire to work.

    Just reading between the lines, mind.

  11. JaitcH

    How about Formula 1 and Sex?

    An almost unbelievable number of combinations brings Max's name: Formula 1 sex; nazi max sex; sex, car racing; sex, F1 racing; etc.

    Mosley has only himself to blame.

    One search combo might bring BA out with Max: [ 33 BA stewardesses ]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about Formula 1 and Sex?

      Only has himself to blame for being involved in a perfectly legal private non-nazi themed orgy?


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How about Formula 1 and Sex?

        Totally agree, if you want to engage in an orgy, who's business is it but the participants?

        Sure from what I heard it was pretty damn extreme... but each to their own..... its not like he was forcing anyone is it???

  12. M Gale

    Fired on the basis of a Google name search?

    What employer would be so cretinous, and want to work for them?

    1. Sweaty Hambeast

      Re: Fired on the basis of a Google name search?

      > What employer would be so cretinous,

      The ones that ask you for your Facebook login details. (*)

      > and want to work for them?

      No fucking way! (**)

      (*) Other social networking sites are available (and no, I don't have a Facebook account; I have a life).

      (**) Although you may have to. I'm currently unemployed(***) and the terms of receiving my unemployment benefit state that if someone offers me a job, I am obliged to take it.

      (***) Due to the boss making me redundant due to him being almost broke as his clients are "saving" and not spending money on his services.

      1. Jimbo 6

        Re: if someone offers me a job, I am obliged to take it

        Slightly off-topic, but 'Class War' newspaper pointed out some years ago that whilst it is an offence to hide any unspent convictions in order to get a job, there is no specific law about spicing up your CV with a few convictions you don't have, in order to *not* get a job...

        "Public obscenity, namely, bestiality with a llama in a convent" should probably do the trick.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: if someone offers me a job, I am obliged to take it

          There did used to be a rule about accepting work in your own field.

          So if anybody needs any llamas 'warmed up' for IVF you could be in trouble !

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fired on the basis of a Google name search?

        Upvoted because of the elegance of iterative footnotes.

  13. JImme

    Name Change

    Why doesn't the man go ion for a legal change of name. Wouldnt that have been easier than all this hassle?

  14. johnwerneken

    About time someone had the gonads to show a Government the utter and total contempt and disregard ALL Governments and ALL nations and other useless primitive groups deserve!

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Is it the government they are showing two fingers to? Or is it the people whose legal system is being ignored?

      There are certainly UK laws that I think are ridiculous, but I expect companies that operate in the UK to stick to them until they are changed by the proper procedure. (Digressing only slightly, I expect my government to stick to them as well, the more so because they have to power to change the ones they don't like, but again only by the proper procedure.) It's called "rule of law" and history has very little good to say about countries where it doesn't hold.

  15. Armando 123

    On the one hand

    You gotta feel sorry for a guy whose name translates to Harry Ball ...

    Mine's the one with the old map of Fort Wayne in it.

  16. Drew V.

    The problem is an outgrowth of censorship itself

    I am not claiming here that censorships always functions like this, as a universal rule. But at least in the specific case of a search engine run by private company, censorship appears to be self-reinforcing and to spiral out of control. Because once you start to censor beyond the bare minimum (malware, child porn, etc.), and once people become aware that censorship in this case is technically possible as well as enforcible through the courts, the demands for more and more thorough censoring start to pile up, as in this case.

    And the private company that is Google cannot afford to keep turning new requests down because it wants to continue to do business at all costs. The result will be a highly filtered search experience, though, which will obviously undermine Google's position as a gateway to the "complete" web.

    It is one of the realities that will probably lead to an increasing number of small competitors to Google as a search engine; not just alternatives such as Duckduckgo but also alternatives that are completely non-corporate and that may have illegitimate or even rogue status, on the level somewhere of P2P, Wikileaks, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem is an outgrowth of censorship itself

      Oh cut the drama, it's only auto completion we're talking about here.

      1. Drew V.

        Re: The problem is an outgrowth of censorship itself

        Obviously I was taking auto completion as a sign of things yet to come, and speculating on future developments. Feel free to disagree.

  17. Martin Huizing

    So anyone actually know the name of this profiteer?

    I want to dedicate a Wiki page on his behalf.

  18. deadlockvictim

    Japanese Names

    It may sound as if I'm trolling, but I reckon that the problem is that he has a Japanese name and the vast majority of Japanese names in Google's mighty database(s) are pornstars.

    Consider that Google is an American companies and American companies are very prudish by global standards [1]. Although Google is populated with many, many Clever people, the association in the data banks has been made and this poor fellow has suffered as a consequence.

    I suspect that this will cause many Japanese to migrate to another, more Japanese-friendly search engine. One that is Japanese and has Japanese sensibilities at heart.

    Well done, Google.

    [1] I had my account on a social networking site disabled once because the uploaded picture was of myself and my Japanese girlfriend in kimono. We were at a wedding. I was given no explanation as to why the account was closed, but I guess that the editor saw the kimono and assumed that she was a geisha. As we all know geisha are prostitutes and this sort of thing was not what they wanted.

    In retrospect, the ignorant editor did me a favour.

  19. Alan Brown Silver badge

    These guys have never heard.....

    ... of

    Although how their claims of bing able ot wipe your web history actuaklly stack up, I'm not sure.

    Suing search engines has a major Streisand effect.

  20. The Grump

    Perhaps the court could use a little muscle...

    Think about it - Google CEO Eric Schmidt turns around in his office one evening, only to see several ninjas. The next day, they find his body riddled with shuriken and one fatal katana thrust to the heart. THAT would send a message to Google about respecting Japanese court decisions. It would also make me very happy. Google = EVIL. Eric Schmidt = Very Evil.

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