Can a Search Suggestion Be Defamatory? (Revisited)

Earlier this year I posted about a French case that held Google liable for search suggestions that pulled up defamatory senses. (Courts in other countries have also held Google liable for this; others have not.)

The highest court in France, the Cour de Cassation, has now held that Google was not liable after all. The search results were completely automated, thus not the expression of anyone’s intention, and thus not able to be the basis of an intentional illicit act like defamation.

As the court said:

la fonctionnalité aboutissant au rapprochement critiqué est le fruit d’un processus purement automatique dans son fonctionnement et aléatoire dans ses résultats, de sorte que l’affichage des « mots clés » qui en résulte est exclusif de toute volonté de l’exploitant du moteur de recherche d’émettre les propos en cause ou de leur conférer une signification autonome au-delà de leur simple juxtaposition et de leur seule fonction d’aide à la recherche.

[A slightly cleaned up Google Translate version reads: ‘The functionality leading to the word association criticized [by the plaintiff] is the result of a purely automatic process in its operation and random in its results, so that the display of ‘keywords’ that results is beyond any control by the operator of the search engine in issuing the statements in question or in giving them an autonomous meaning beyond their mere juxtaposition and their sole function of helping the search.”]

Comments are closed.