Is Google Running Scared?

02 June 2014

Google is primarily based in the US and its usual stance is to stay over there, protected by the US Constitution and the First Amendment which protects freedom of speech.

But the EU has made this more difficult in the recent case regarding the right to be forgotten. In that case, the Court of Justice ruled that individuals can require search engines to rectify, erase or block access to the search engine results about them where they are incomplete, inaccurate, irrelevant or outdated or otherwise breach EU data protection law.

Google could have stuck its head in the sand and done nothing and wait for someone to “come and get it”. It hasn’t done that and I think that’s clever – besides obviously complying with the law.

If it had done nothing, someone somewhere, either an individual, an EU state or a regulator would take enforcement action in due course. If it does something, appears being reasonable and makes some effort to remove offending links, perhaps it can escape the worst of the wrath.

ISPs did the same in 1996 when new laws were brought in (under the Defamation Act 1996) to protect them from liability. In the same breath, to have a defence in defamation proceedings, they were supposed to take “reasonable care” in relation to publication whilst at the same time not being an editor author or publisher. Most advice centred around “reasonableness” – do something, act reasonably, remove posts when requested and you’ll probably be in a better position to defend any claim.

On balance it worked. Let’s see whether it does for Google.

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About the Author

Rachel Atkins

Partner

A specialist in safeguarding the reputations of prominent individuals and businesses, Rachel couples her experience in media law with a detailed knowledge of reputation threats that emanate from non-media sources.

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