Should Google Be Forced To Filter Search Results?

Chris CrumSearch

Share this Post

There are a lot of people out there with things in their past that they're not proud of. Sometimes those things make there way to the Internet and do a great deal of damage to their reputation. This stuff comes up when people search on Google, and Google traditionally has not removed such content unless required to do so by law.

One man is currently trying to get his damaging content out of Google, and not just removed, but filtered as it's created. A French court has sided with him, and ordered Google to comply.

Do you think Google should be forced to filter results? Let us know in the comments.

Google has been in a legal battle in France for the past couple months regarding reputation-damaging search results involving former Forumua One Racing head Max Mosley's attendance at orgy, which was leaked in a video back in 2008.

News of the World had published footage of the orgy, which was described as involving Nazi role-playing. While owning up to the orgy, he denied the Nazi element, which a court also said there was no evidence of after he sued the publication.

Mosley sued Google with the goal of getting this content out of search results, potentially setting a dangerous precedent in search engine censorship.

When Google went to court in September, it took to its Europe Policy blog to discuss the case, saying that Mosley requested the judge impose "an alarming new model for automated censorship."

Google must be alarmed now. It hasn't posted anything about it on the blog yet. It will reportedly appeal, however.

The New York Times reports:

On Wednesday, the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris backed Mr. Mosley’s attempts to force Google to block references to the images from appearing in Google’s search results worldwide. The company said it would appeal the decision.

Google had this to say about the case in the initial blog post:

He wants web companies to build software filters, in an attempt to automatically detect and delete certain content. Specifically, Mr. Mosley demands that Google build a filter to screen Google’s index and proactively block pages containing images from our results – without anyone, much less a judge, ever seeing it or understanding the context in which the image appears.

We sympathize with Mr. Mosley, and with anyone who believes their rights have been violated. We offer well-established tools to help people to remove specific pages from our search results when those pages have clearly been determined to violate the law. In fact, we have removed hundreds of pages for Mr. Mosley, and stand ready to remove others he identifies.

But the law does not support Mr. Mosley’s demand for the construction of an unprecedented new Internet censorship tool. In repeated rulings, Europe’s highest court has noted that filters are blunt instruments that jeopardise lawful expression and undermine users’ fundamental right to access information. A set of words or images may break the law in one context, but be lawful in another. As an example, a filter might end up censoring news reports about Mr. Mosley’s own court case.

While constituting a dangerous new censorship tool, the filter would fail to solve Mr. Mosley’s problems. Pages removed from search results remain live on the Internet, accessible to users by other means – from following links on social networks to simply navigating to the address in a browser. As an example, one page Mr. Mosley sought to remove comes from a blog, which according to public sources, receives the vast majority of its visits from sources other than web search.

Interestingly enough, this comes after Google adjusted its algorithm on its own to prevent mug shot sites' content from ranking in search results, which could help protect the reputations of some people.

In another case in June, a European court said Google didn't have to remove search results when a Spanish man sought for it to remove reputation-damaging materials.

Do you think Google should be forced to filter results from its search engine? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Image: Onfreespeech (YouTube)

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.