October 2011: What is the purpose of this blog?
I am suing Google Inc and Google Australia for defamation. After 18 months of unsuccessful attempts to get the defamatory snippets and links removed I was left with no other option but to litigate. This approach was an absolute last choice and it is every bit as horrendous as I imagined. I just wanted to be able to work!
There is absolutely no chance of gaining any employment while my name is indexed in terms such as ‘rip off’, ‘fraud’, ‘scam’ and ‘complaints’. The initial reasons for putting the information about the case in the public domain – to stave off intellectual atrophy have altered. The defendants have tried to ‘make me go away’ by ‘deep pocketing’ without success. Recently an Australian man won a defamation case against Google and this has set a new precedent.
The reasons for publishing this blog are twofold. Firstly, Google stated in this blog post that online reputation can be managed by publishing content. Secondly, Google did not remove all the links and indeed removed a link to 5 of the 6 defamatory posts soon after we filed proceedings and then put it back online after I complained that this blog had been dropped from the Google search results. The media has been positive and I am particularly pleased with this recent interview on the website CiviliNation, a non-profit charity organization taking a stand against online hostility and adult cyberbullying.
The defamation was published by a website which, along with Google, profits from the publication of false, defamatory and race hate material. Within a couple of weeks, Google relegated the blog to the outer limits of cyberspace. Google removed the blog from the search results for my name because I had made it quite clear that I was suing Google for defamation! These two posts document the removal of my blog.
Between March and November 2011 (following the issue of proceedings in the South Australian District Court in February 2011), many of the defamatory urls were removed from google.com.au. In December 2011 I complained about the censorship of my blog in a discussion that had engaged Matt Cutts in a debate.
Suddenly my blog was re-indexed in the SERPS for my name. The process is documented in this post, However, a previously removed link to five of the defamatory documents was also re-indexed on the Google Australia domain. This was a form of punishment from Google, or maybe a childish show of Google power.
I guess Google believe in freedom of speech, unless someone says something they don’t like. Google does not say that its results are completely automated although this defence is used regularly in cases outside the USA. It appears they run a different defence in the USA to avail protection from the First Amendment.
Google wants to organise world’s information- and put advertisements on it. This is explicated in more details on my other domain (googleblog.co).
How did this happen?
The defamation resulted from a revenge attack by a person or persons unknown. Ripoff Report is one of the most contentious websites on the internet. Google has been aware of the ‘business practices’ of this website since at least 2007 and it was second defendant in a 2007 lawsuit so it knows the website publishes false material and charges thousands of dollars to ‘rehabilitate’ reputations or redact information. Clearly freedom of speech is not free!
I posted as a consumer on Ripoff Report. There is evidence that the website passes on the details of consumers who register on the website to the subjects of the reports. Once my details were known by the authors of the defamatory material, a Google search produced a number of links to my professional activities and the one social media profile I had at that time. Furthermore, comments were written on the website using my name and with a handle to make it appear like they were written by me. At one point I was harassed after a post published my phone number.
In a world before the internet this would have not mattered. However, the reach and influence of the web is all pervasive. Employers and potential employers can and do ‘google’ the names of job applicants. In fact, there is a whole industry designed to search the recesses of the internet for information. In my case this would be an easy task because the defamation is prominently displayed on the first page of the search results for my name.
Am I guilty of committing the crimes stated on Google?
No and moreover, the crimes are contingent on the ability to hack into pc’s. I am extremely technically challenged. I had to employ a WordPress (WP) tech to install this blog and it is not designed to be a particularly difficult task. Suffice it to say, Wikileaks or ASIO are not going to be head hunting my way any time in this lifetime.
Why not apply to an Australian court to order Ripoff Report to reveal the names of the authors and/or remove the defamatory material instead of suing Google?
Ripoff Report has stated its position on litigation from victims outside the US. If I did manage to find the original authors, Rip off Report will not remove material even if it can be proven that it is false or if the original author requests. Of course, if one happens to own Google it is a different matter: Apparently Mr Sergey Bin requires special treatment with respect to a mention on Ripoff Report.
Ripoff Report is considered a site of high authority and relevance by Google. This means that the defamatory material would re-appear on Google within a very short period. Google have the technical ability to block parts of domains but they consider that it should only be done under their terms. What are these terms? Well, basically anything they want them to be on any given day.
The evidence submitted to the antitrust hearing clearly indicates that Google’s priority is not their users or even freedom of speech – it is their profits and these come from advertising! It is worth noting that Google clearly state that their customers are ‘over one million of advertisers, from small businesses targeting local customers to many of the world’s largest global enterprises’ and that they consider web search to be one of their products. Moreover, Google controls more than 75% of global search and 94% of Australian searches are conducted on Google domains. This raises the question of do they put a price of ‘freedom of speech’?
If the aim is to get the defamatory material removed why write a blog?
I decided to write a blog for two reasons. Firstly, I realised that although the original article in the Spanish Data Protection case remains indexed on Google, media reports and discussion that contain the full story are also indexed under the name of the plaintiff. Secondly, nine months after filing proceedings it became clear that Google were not going to completely remove the defamatory material and I could not avoid media reports about the case.
So is suing Google an opportunity for some cash?
It is easy to perceive those who complain or litigate because of defamation as weak or opportunistic. Certainly that has been my experience during the recent legal processes. The reality is that the incidence of online defamation and cyberbullying is increasing with devastating consequences for affected people and businesses. This is complicated by jurisdictional issues because websites are more often than not hosted offshore. In the USA websites are immune from liability for the publication of defamatory material under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) and therin lies the problem.
A website can make a lot of money from destroying businesses if it is protected by the two American’ gods’ of the internet – Google and the CDA. I have no intention of allowing a multi billion dollar company or their lawyers to bully me out of the right to work so despite the attempts at ‘deep pocketing’ by Google I will fight on!
Google removes thousands of urls on a daily basis. I submitted more than 10 removal requests (through their official process) and concerns notices over an 18 month period before I filed proceedings. I subsequently discovered that Google Australia facilitates the removal of links to defamatory and damaging material and it appears that they chose those that pose a potential litigation threat but ONLY if it appears that they have the resources to take a case to trial.
The requests from other Australians who have suffered loss and stress from the publication of defamatory material on Ripoff Report have also been ignored and/or refused by both Google and the AMCA. I guess they thought that I did not fit this criteria. This is insane given that it will cost them a big chunk of change to employ two law firms on this case. Conversely, the removal of links would only take a few minutes staff time. Oh wait, they are worth $220 billion dollars so they can afford not to care about a few hundred thousand dollars in legal fees.
The for profit ‘ripoff/complaint/fraud/scam websites provide a convenient forum in which cyberbullies, trolls, business rivals and sometimes a person who is just having a bad day can inflict serious damage on an individual or career. Most of these websites do not remove false material. However, there is substantial evidence that alarge payment may convince these website owners to relax their strong commitment to freedom of speech. The websites are able to reap large profits with this ‘business model’ ONLY because of their positions of authority on Google.
Senator Conroy should investigate because, my case aside revenue that should be earned by Australian small businesses is swelling the coffers of a multinational corporation and these grubby websites. The harm caused by these websites is immeasurable and reflected in the more than 500 signatures on this petition for Google to remove Ripoff Report. Moreover, Google has been aware of Ripoff Report for several years as evidenced by online statements and documents in litigation. Google’s defence seems to be basically that it is not their fault! But Ripoff Report is not simply an obscure website or blog. Maybe Google forgot about their little trip to the US court with Ripoff Report. Oh wait, they are worth more than $220 billion and can afford to forget the fact that they are aware of the business model used by Ripoff Report and other similar websites.
What do I know about defamation law?
Not very much because defamation law is complex and I am not a lawyer. But I am an experienced researcher and have spent the last two years compiling information about these grubby ripoff-complaint-scam-fraud websites, Google, and legal developments in internet defamation as well as political and social movements to reign in the anarchic nature of the internet. Perhaps when it is loaded on to the relevant pages the information will be of some use to other Australians in a similar situation.