In his epic battle for privacy for rich and famous people, Max Mosley has taken aim at a new target: The Intrawebz and their evil “search machine” kingpin, Google. The search engine giant has refused to manipulate results in order to remove references to Mosley’s orgy with five prostitutes.
Now, Mosley has won some of his cases over the past few years, in his pursuit to clear his name and restore his image.
For example, he has twice won judgments against now defunct News of the World for publishing the expose on his orgy in the first place; it was determined that his privacy had been invaded. In the most recent case, settled in a French court in November, he only walked away with £6000 despite asking for £180,000 in damages.
His previous judgment against News of the World in London’s High Court awarded him £60,000. However, Neville Thurlbeck, the investigative reporter responsible for the expose, was cleared of libelling Mosley.
Mosley testified at the Leveson inquiry last week that he has pursued legal action in 22 countries and ordered the removal of material from 193 German websites. As to his logic behind suing Google, from his testimony:
”One of the difficulties is that Google have these automatic search machines so if somebody puts something up somewhere, if you Google my name, it will appear. We've been saying to Google, you shouldn't do this, this material is illegal, these pictures have been ruled illegal in the English High Court. They say we're not obliged to police the web and we don't want to police the web, so we have brought proceedings against them in France and Germany where the jurisprudence is favourable. We're also considering bringing proceedings against them in California.”
I tried to follow Mosley’s thought process as far as I could, even though it makes about as much sense as Sir Brian Souter, another rich old guy, demanding that Google rank his website tops simply because it was his.
So... a court decided it wasn’t right for News of the World to label the orgy “Nazi” in nature. Now, I’ve heard the audio and though it’s actually painful to recall it in my head, he was speaking with a German accent. But according to the courts, it wasn’t a Nazi-style orgy - it was just your every day, run of the mill S&M sex party between one consenting old rich guy and five enterprising prostitutes, one of whom seems to have captured it on tape.
That the orgy occurred has never been in question. What Mosley has taken issue all along with is the fact that he wasn’t contacted by news agencies before they ran the story about it, and people are still allowed to talk about it. As he explained to the crowd at the IQ2 “Sex, Bugs & Videotapes: the private lives of public figures deserve more protection from the press” debate (see video below):
“You have these newspapers, the Daily Mail is a good example. They think - well, their editor, Mr. Dacre thinks - he has the right to pillory individuals if they do something he doesn’t approve of. In my case, he said that I was guilty of “unimaginable depravity.” And of course, it raises the interesting question of what, in Mr. Dacre’s eyes, is ordinary depravity? Apparently, it’s leaving the lights on while you’re doing it...
Really, the only people that think they can go into the bedroom of consenting adults and tell them what they should or should not do are the Taliban and Mr. Dacre. He’s the Kensington Taliban, actually. A watered-down version, but the sentiment is the same.”
Here is more of what he had to say about Google at the Leveson inquiry:
“But the fundamental point is that Google could stop this material appearing, but they don't, or they won't as a matter of principle. My position is that if the search engines -- if somebody were to stop the search engines producing the material, the actual sites don't really matter because without a search engine, nobody will find it, it would be just a few friends of the person who posts it. The really dangerous thing are the search engines.
Now hold on, Mr. Mosley, you’ve lost me. Newspapers, whether in print or online, aren’t attempting to tell people what they can or can’t do in the privacy of their bedrooms. They will, however, report to the public what went on in that bedroom when one of the people involved in such activity makes a videotaped recording of it, especially when that person happens to have a high public profile. Courts seem to have ruled that it was an invasion of privacy and actions can be taken by you and your team to have images removed from offending websites.
Search engines are, indeed, dangerous in that they allow access to all types of crazy, depraved things, like community resources, educational texts, funny pictures of kittens and children, and... well, yes, imagery of consenting adults getting their freak on. However, to link to such imagery, someone must have actually gotten their freak on.
Let’s not even go into the irony of a man who sued because he was accused of styling the orgy after Nazis then calling a member of the press “Taliban” for reporting on it.
As far as suing the search engine goes, is it their job to stop “producing” (indexing and displaying) results, without the direction of the courts, based on how those results came to be? Yes, his privacy was invaded, but not by Google. The orgy actually did occur. He’s not photoshopped into the images. His ongoing lawsuits actually have the effect of generating more web content about his sex scandal.
It is a terrible thing that his sexual activities were taped and released to the public. I wouldn’t want that to happen to me, but then I try to refrain from having kinky sex with five people at a time... but I digress. Once they’re out there, is it Google’s job to protect the public image of any individual, no matter how precious their reputation, by deindexing sites that mention something that actually happened?
Perhaps the... theme... of the orgy was taken out of context. It’s certainly embarrassing. But let’s consider for a moment the types of content that may make mention of a high profile individual engaging in an orgy with five hookers:
- Blog posts by people who saw the saw the video or pictures, discussing their own opinions of the sex scandal and subsequent fallout
- Videos and images, either taken from the originals or created in satire
- Posts in forums discussing the hilarity politics of a ⅙ geriatric orgy
- Social media mentions
So on top of the news articles about something that actually happened, Google is to block out all incidences of Mosley’s pants-down showdown with five hookers mentions because... just because.
Mr. Mosley, with all due respect, is not looking for anything a court of law could order. He wants it not to have happened. Barring that, he wants it erased from the public conscience, never to be spoken or thought about again.
What he’s actually asking for is a Memory Hole.
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