Actress Sues Google For Indexing Porn Search Results Tied To Her Name

privacy-security-online-computerMaria Belen Rodriguez is an Argentina-born model, actress and TV personality who now lives and works in Italy. She successfully sued Google and Yahoo in 2006 in her native country, alleging that her likeness was wrongfully appropriated by porn sites and then indexed/republished or disseminated by search engines.

There was an alleged sex tape involving Belen Rodriguez (in roughly 2011), which is either the source or a source of the porn-related search results tied to her name. Apparently the porn sites that have damaged her reputation were not sued originally.

The precise legal claims made by Belen Rodriquez are not entirely clear. They probably involved misappropriation of her likeness and related damage to her reputation. I haven’t been able to locate the complaint.

She initially won a judgment of roughly $15,000 in 2010, in the Argentina action. That was subsequently reduced to just over $6,000 and now the case has gone up to the Argentinean Supreme Court — presumably over the amount of the damages award.

In one way of looking at it this is another instance of individuals or governments trying to control public perceptions by altering or censoring search results (see China, Pakistan, India, among others). This case is also a first cousin of the European “right to be forgotten,” dealing with the rights of individuals to control what appears about them in search results.

Because the underlying claims and facts are a bit unclear — beyond the fact that a “Maria Belen Rodriguez” search (with modifiers) does bring porn search results — it’s difficult to know how to react. I certainly understand Belen Rodriguez’s desire to vindicate her name and reputation. However she should have sued (or attempted to sue) the porn sites involved.

Suing only search engines, as in the Spanish case that led to the “right to be forgotten” decision, is highly problematic. And if the decision and damages award stands it will create more litigation against Google and search engines generally when people have a colorable legal claim against third parties whose results are indexed.

Google and Yahoo are targets (the suit pre-dates Bing) because they facilitate discovery of information and because they’re big companies that can be located easily and cannot avoid jurisdiction. However it’s dangerous and ultimately bad for society to hold them legally responsible for wrongs committed by third parties over which they have no control.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Google: SEO | Legal: Censorship | Legal: Privacy | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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