Spanish Want Google To Police Libel On The Internet

In yet another difficult European regulatory decision for Google the Spanish data protection authority has demanded that Google remove links to articles online (e.g., newspaper articles) that contain defamatory content. According to the UK-based Guardian:

The technology giant has been ordered to remove almost 100 online articles from its search listings by Spain’s data protection authority . . . An injunction against search engines is the only way to block access to sensitive material published by these sites, the Spanish authority argues, as newspapers in the country can legally refuse to comply with more informal requests.

Google rightly complained that this move could chill speech and free expression.

It’s similar to another legal “setback” for Google in Italy last week. In that instance the Italian Communications Authority imposed rules and requirements governing traditional TV on YouTube, including an obligation to publish “corrections” to video content within 48 hours if requested by a self-proclaimed slander victim.

In the Spanish case it’s not clear from the Guardian article whether simply making a claim of defamation, as opposed to successfully proving a case in court, would be sufficient to trigger the obligation to remove the links. In other words, would a politician who’s reputation was implicated by a newspaper article reporting corruption or some other bad behavior be able to demand removal of the links to the offending article(s) simply because they were “defamatory” if true? If so that would set a terrible precedent in a democracy.

Ironically the data protection authority is “going after” Google because newspapers can apparently refuse to cooperate with regulators in the absence of formal court orders to do so.

Google is set to challenge the Spanish data protection authority’s order in a Madrid court this week.

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Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Google: Web Search

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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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  • http://www.mindshareworld.com Ciarán Norris

    It;s becoming embarrassing to be European. With this, the Italian case you mention, and the ongoing EU investigation, it seems that we really are determined to do everything we can to prove that we have no understanding of the 21st Century.

  • http://mohanarun.com L. Mohan Arun

    If I were Google, I would dare these ‘rules’ by people ‘who had nothing to do with either the invention of the internet or the search engine’. I would rather have the citizens of Spain and Italy unable to use Google than allow some European government agency control over Google’s listings, over what to show and what not to.

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