There is often a fine line between one person’s freedom of speech and another’s right to protect their good name. In the age of biting YouTube comments, Facebook slam pages, and those bloggers sipping on the hater-ade, it is often difficult to determine where one person’s rights begin and another’s ends.
Fortunately, the internet is not just a free-for-all of those who just don’t have anything nice to say. Defamation of character lawsuits abound, and Google in particular has something to say about it.
Google got a little bit of flack recently when it put a freeze on granting defamation removal requests. This hold on its “informal policy” of removing defaming URLs from search results consequently led to a wave of US attorneys receiving denials to their requests to remove defamatory content.
Google has had this policy since 2009, which required requests accompanied by a court order. The hold came as quite a surprise, but it looks as though Google has let up a *little*.
It appears that some of these requests are now being acted upon, which is great news for the victims in these cases. This post gives a couple of examples of the requests that have been approved, including some that were previously denied.
However, this inconsistency can be a bit confusing for both victims and attorneys. It is unclear what Google’s criteria is for granting the requests. Keep in mind that filing a defamation of character case can be an lengthy and expensive process. To be denied your request would indeed be frustrating.
SearchEngineLand.com gives some insight into why Google has been so steadfast on this issue:
“Google chooses to perform some assessment of the removal requests they receive to ensure everything is valid, and because there have apparently been cases of fraud perpetrated on the courts…. [they seem] to be performing an audit of each court order to determine whether those accused of defamation have been adequately identified and notified of court proceedings, whether the identified prohibited content is residing at URLs identified in court orders, and more.”
Given that explanation, it makes some sense as to why Google has been strict about which URLs they decide to take down. It is not merely an issue of protecting a person’s right to freedom of speech, but accurately vetting whether the request for removal is legitimate or not. That being said, it is clear that many court ordered requests have been denied, and that can be a real issue for attorneys and their clients.
What do you think? Will Google respond to push back from those that have had their names defamed online?