Why I am suing Google.

I filed proceedings because I had no choice if I ever wanted to work again. At that time I thought that Google would just remove the defamatory  material and it could be quietly settled. After they were served Google Australia removed some defamatory links and snippets from the local domain.

Google has since argued that Google Australia have no authority over the search results but there are documented examples of the exercise of this authority (material has been removed after notification to Google AU only, not Google Inc). Since most of the local domains are accessible in Australia it defies logic why Google removes some offending and/or defamtory material from the local domain and some from all domains.

The front page of the Google Australia domain has a link to ‘go to Google.com‘. Apparently Google thinks its users are stupid and would not search on that link if they were looking for information about a person. That must be why Eric Schmidt says that people want Google to give them the answers to their questions. In March 2012 Google predicted that they would be making decisions on behalf of users in response to their needs. Ummmm, isn’t that the role of the Federal Government in Australia…just saying.

As documented in my last post, defamatory and or offensive material (including that pertaining to my case) has been re indexed after it was removed from Google. For example, highly offensive racist material about Aboriginals is currently displayed on Google Australia’s domain. Until recently it appeared on the same page as the Chilling Effects notification submitted by Google Australia after the link was removed in response to a complaint from the Australian Human Rights Commission.  Google Australia clearly acted in order to mitigate any of the embarrassment caused by the publicity – not because of respect for our Indigenous people or for our laws on racism for that matter!

Recently, Encyclopedia Dramatica has again moved domains  and this changes the links. But the number of page views are increasing.  There is some information that this website is connected with the hackers who operate under the name of ‘Anonymous’. Some further examples of the material published by this website in this blog post.

Earlier in 2011 Google Australia removed this racist and highly offensive video after it was broadcast on the current affairs show hosted by George Negus. This action was taken within hours of the broadcast of the program but two years after it was uploaded onto YouTube. Moreover, it was completely removed from all Google domains.

Of course Google could argue that since they own YouTube their removal policy is different to the one they apply if they do not own the website on which the material is published. This is the standard removal notification if they decide to remove a url and snippet because it is defamatory:

 Hello,

Thanks for reaching out to us.

Please be advised that Google aggregates and organizes information published on the web; we don’t control the content found in the pages you’ve specified. However, in accordance with Google Inc.’s policies concerning content removal, the following URL(s) have been removed from (local domain0.

Please let us know if we can assist you further.

Regards,

The Google Team

Given that the publication of defamatory material causes extreme emotional distress, the ‘thanks for reaching out to us’ is particularly patronising but that seems to encapsulate Google attitude – information belongs to them irrespective of ownership, privacy or even legal issues. The point is that Google states in this video by Matt Cutts that the material it indexes in NOT representative of all the material on the internet – it is THEIR version of the web.

Besides the need to litigate to ensure that the defamatory material is permanently removed from Google there is another reason that I am fighting this case. As documented in this article, Google acts with impunity and disregard for the rights of individuals, companies and nations.  As noted elsewhere in this blog, the website Ripoff Report is a case in point.

In 2010 Eric Schmidt predicted in an interview that every young person one day will be entitled ‘automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites’. Is escaping the impact of destructive information put on view for the whole world as simple as changing one’s name?

Last night I read a really heartbreaking comment on the story about my case published on the authoritative SEO blog, SearchenginelandIt was written by someone who recently lost a brother to suicide over material published on this grubby little website, Ripoff Report.

The writer used the handle, ‘In Pain’.

My brother was a good person, did not intentionally harm anyone, and simply struggled through life like everyone else. He did not always make the right decisions, but his intentions were never evil. He had a large heart. His only flaw was that he didn’t handle difficult situations very well (We are all guilty of that).

Ex-girlfriends and ex-employees took to ripoffreport.com to get revenge. The posts haunted him every single day, for years. He simply couldn’t move forward. He legally changed his name in 2009, in an attempt to hide from this website, but even that didn’t fix it.He was unable to work, have a serious relationship, or move forward after these posts were made. My brother never recovered from these posts.

After years of struggling to recover, he simply couldn’t do it any longer. He took his own life on 12/14/2011 in Orlando, FL. He referenced these posts many times in his final words. These posts haunted him daily.I hope my reply makes people think about the damage that can be done by posting negative things on the internet about another person. Everyone has feelings, and they are real.My brother will be buried sometime next week.

R.I.P. Dear Brother.

The Google view that they are entitled to take information and use it in whatever way they wish is more than elitist and naive. It is cruel and their support of websites such as Ripoff Report and Encyclopedia Dramatica is reprehensible. These websites do NOT represent the philosophy embodied in the doctrine of freedom of speech. First and foremost, freedom of speech is limited by the potential for harm.

In his philosophical work,  On Liberty, John Stuart Mill defined harm as ‘an action has to directly and in the first instance invade the rights of a person’. Rights are entitlements (not) to perform certain actions, or (not) to be in certain states, or entitlements that others (not) perform certain actions or (not) be in certain states. This means that individuals have a right to an expectation of privacy and a right to live their life without the impediment of the global publication of material that can cause them harm.

The ability to work, and have meaningfull social relationships without the spectre of defamatory and/or false material, has been taken away from many people by Google. Clearly, they are not going to implement any fair and viable policy to remove material from their web index without the imposition of any external legal, government or moral constraints. As Mill noted:

All that makes existence valuable to anyone depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed—by law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law.
My reason for suing Google was motivated by a personal need to be able to work in a profession that I loved. In light of the above post by ‘In Pain’ and the comments on this petition to Google, it is clear that there is an urgent need to put this issue on the public agenda. This will be a task for 2012.

 

 

 

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