Google must pay a $65,000 fine for suggesting the search term for “crook” when users typed in the name of France insurance company Lyonnaise de Garantie. Google must also remove the word “escroc” (“crook” in French) as suggested searches.
Google argued that the company wasn’t liable because the search suggestion is algorithmically generated and not determined by humans. The Paris court didn't agree, and apparently didn’t like that Google “ignored requests to remove the offending word,” Courthouse News Service reported.
While it’s unlikely to have much impact in the U.S. search industry, Forbes noted that the ruling “sets a bad precedent for Google in Europe. There are quite a few people and companies out there who may have suggestions for their names that could be considered defamatory. (Ahem. Max Mosley.)”
This is yet another loss for Google in France. In 2010, CEO Eric Schmidt and Google were found guilty of defamation when the search engine suggested terms including “rapist” and “Satanist” for a plaintiff. Also that year, Google was ordered to remove search suggestions of “scam” when users searched for Centre National Privé de Formation a Distance (CNFDI).
Autocomplete, a feature that is quite popular among Google's users, has also been the subject of defamation cases in other countries, such as in Ireland when a hotel sued Google for suggesting it was in financial trouble (a case which was later dropped), and in Argentina, where Google was ordered to change search suggestions on anti-Semitic terms.