A French court has convicted Google
and CEO Eric Schmidt
for defamation. The ruling came as a result of Google's Suggest function, which brought up terms such as "rapist" and "satanist" when people Googled the plaintiff's name.
The man who filed the lawsuit had been previously convicted of “corruption of a minor.” However, the case is under appeal, meaning it's not final. The man discovered the results on entering his name in a Google search. The Suggest function does what it sounds like, suggests additional terms for the searcher.
The ruling was made by the Paris high court on Sept. 8. Legalis.net, an aggregator of French legal decisions, has the decision in full. The ruling (translated) said, in part:
supporting the association of these words is a public defamation of an individual, regardless of the content of articles or documents which refer such requests,
Google has vowed to appeal the ruling, and has said in its defense that the Google Suggest algorithm returns results based on the most common terms used in the past with a query entered. Thus, the company said, it was not Google itself that was making the suggestions.
The court ruled that Google should pay a fine of 5,000 euros to "Mr. X." At the same time, the company is required to take down the defamatory results of the Suggest algorithm; the company will be fined daily until such action had been taken.
In February, an Italian court convicted three Google executives of violating Italy's privacy code, in a case related to video posted in late 2006 on Google Video (not YouTube). The uploaded video showed the bullying of a boy with Down's Syndrome. Those executives received suspended six month sentences.