Once again Google is on the guilty end of the defamation stick in Europe — this time in Italy. An Italian court has upheld an earlier decision that held Google Instant’s autocomplete suggestions can be libelous.
In this instance, an Italian businessman sued Google when a search for his name was completed with “truffa” and “truffatore,” which mean “fraud” and “conman,” respectively, in Italian.
As you may recall, back in September, a French court found Google liable for defamation when the same “suggest” feature brought up “rapist” and “satanist” when users typed in the plaintiff’s name.
In the Italian case, the plaintiff maintained that the search results could harm his business, which he promotes on the Internet. Google sought protection under the safe harbor provision of the Ecommerce Directive as a hosting provider and not a content producer, but the Italian court found that Google was still liable for producing the suggestions. The court also agreed with the plaintiff that the word “fraud” appearing with his name could cause searchers “to doubt the moral integrity of the individual” and “to suspect him of illicit conduct.”
For the violations, the court ordered the search engine giant to filter out those results and to pay the unnamed businessman 3,800 Euros ($5,500) in legal fees and damages.
In a blog post following the decision, Carlo Piana, lead counsel for the plaintiff, noted that Google already does “filter out certain content, including terms that are know to be used to distribute copyright infringing material,” and maintained that “by no means [is the lawsuit] an endorsement to censorship, as notice to [Google] was given well in advance, the [allegations] of the complainant were fully discussed with them before even considering to go to court, and the requests [were and are] only for a very exceptional set of string (two).”
According to CNET, Google was “disappointed” by the decision, and the company is “currently reviewing [its] options.”
What do you think of this decision?