Autocomplete Defamation Case Study: Bettina Wulff
A former “First Lady” once sued Google for autocomplete defamation. Bettina Wulff is her name — the now ex-wife of Germany’s former President, Christian Wulff.
Prurient Accusations Lead To Autocomplete Lawsuit
Back in 2012, news outlets published allegedly defamatory remarks about Mrs. Wulff, claiming the ex-First Lady once earned money the….uhhhhh….really old fashioned way [a-hem].
The accusations proved a tad more tiresome for the Wulffs (who were still married at the time) — he was, after all, the senior member of a conservative Christian political party; so, a whisper campaign casting Bettina as a “prostitute” and “escort” was a bit, shall we say, off brand.
Moreover, the former Mrs. Wulff firmly contended — and continues to contend — that the claims are absolutely false.
Why did the Wulffs add Google to the defendant list? You see, anytime you pumped Bettina’s name into the query box, the words “prostitute,” “escort” and “red light” appeared. Not exactly a positive first impression — especially since Bettina used to be a publicist.
Believe it or not, Wulff did have an “autocomplete defamation” precedence leg to stand on; a few months before she filed, a Japanese man won a similar, case.
How Did This Autocomplete Defamation Lawsuit Resolve?
According to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Wulffs successfully collected five figures from a handful of press groups involved in the suit, but the outcome of the claims against Google remains unclear. Either the suit is stalled and will take years to resolve, or the parties quietly settled. As of 2016, googling her name does not produce any unsavory autocompletes.
International Defamation Database
Curious as to what countries have the strictest defamation laws and which the most lenient? Head over to the Kelly / Warner International Defamation Law Database, it’s a crash course in global slander and libel law.