Search Engine Defamation: Explanation and Cases

Picture of tablet open to Google to accompany a blog post about search engine defamationSince the dawn of communication, humans have played the defamation card. And thanks to technological advancements, even non-sentient entities are being sued for slander and libel. Yes ladies and gents, search engine defamation is a real thing. We have entered the“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 which includes a false statement of fact, slander would be the correct terminology.

When Non-Sentient Beings Defame, Who Pays?

Like the Imperial Army, search engine spiders multiply daily, and in many ways, the non-human buggers play a significant role in our lives. They fetch the answers to search queries, and, as such, impact our choices.

Take for example the auto-complete functionality on search engines like Google. Once you start typing, it starts suggesting options – and sometimes, those options aren’t exactly flattering. As a result, people have begun suing over the auto-complete suggestions that algorithms offer up.

Search Engine Defamation Lawsuits 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 the name of a criminal along with photos of Trkulja when someone searches his name. So far,  Yahoo and Google have forked over thousands for the offense.

In Japan, a man who may or may not have a past sued Google for auto-complete defamation. When someone searches his name, words associated with criminal happenings appear. He’s arguing that this has prevented him from finding work, so he is suing for defamation.

A German politician’s wife, Bettina Wulff, also sued Google for auto-complete defamation, over a prurient pop-up associated with her name in search results.

Are you looking for an Internet defamation law attorney? Contact Kelly / Warner. We have a dedicated libel team, of AV-rated lawyers, that has successfully navigated businesses and individuals through challenging defamation mazes. Get in touch today.

Speak With An Online Defamation Attorney »