“That’s Slanderous!” It’s a common quip read on websites around the world. From TWOP to Reddit, folks have been playing the defamation card since our species figured out how to mold a series of zeros and ones into instant communication. And now, thanks to technological advancements, even non-sentient entities are being sued for defamation. Yes ladies and gents, we are living in the first “Zombie Defamation” era.
First Things First: 9 Times Out of 10 Internet Defamation Is Not Slander
Before we get into the concept of search engine defamation, we need to clarify the difference between slander and libel. By definition, a written comment on a website cannot be “slanderous.” Libelous? Yes. Slanderous? No. Why? Because slander is spoken defamation and libel is written defamation. Now, if someone posts a video online, and in it they speak a false statement of fact, then that would be considered slanderous.
When Non-Sentient Beings Defame, Who Pays?
The rise of the Internet has meant the rise of the search engine spiders. Like the Imperial Army, search engine spiders multiple daily, and in many ways the non-human buggers actually play a significant role in our lives; they’re the entities that provide the answers to our search queries, and as such impact our choices and help to mold our opinions. Controlled by exacting algorithms, search engine spiders hold a lot more power than we give them credit.
Take for example the auto-complete functionality on search engines like Google. Once you start typing, it starts suggesting options – and oftentimes those options are not exactly flattering. As a result, people have started suing the company for defamation over the suggestions their auto-complete algorithm offers up. And unfortunately for the search engine, these auto-complete defamation claimants seem to be winning.
Several Search Engine Defamation Lawsuits Are Being Heard By Courts Around The World – Google Figures In All
Recently, an Australian citizen, Michael Trkulja, won a defamation lawsuit against Yahoo! and Google over the two search engines’ auto-complete functionality. Both services displayed photos of Trkulja, along with the name of a criminal who shot him, when his name is searched. Captions on the photos also insinuated that a hit man was hired in the attack, which Trkulja argued put him in harm’s way. And the courts agreed. So far, Trkulja has been awarded several hundred thousand dollars from both Yahoo! and Google.
In Japan, a man who may or may not have a criminal past is suing Google for auto-complete defamation. When his name is searched, words associated with criminal happenings appear. He’s arguing that this has prevented him from finding work, and therefore he’s suing for defamation.
A German politician’s wife, Bettina Wulff, is also suing Google for auto-complete defamation, over suggestions that pop up under her name having to do with prostitution and other illicit things.
Are you looking for an online libel attorney? If you answered “yes” to that question, contact the Kelly / Warner law firm. We have a dedicated Internet defamation legal team, are an AV-rated firm, and have successfully helped many businesses and individuals with their defamation legal needs. Get in touch today.