Google Doesn’t Have To Screen For Defamatory Search Results, German Court Rules

Germany’s highest court on Tuesday ruled that Google has no obligation to check websites for defamatory content before including them in search results.

The Federal Court of Justice found that Google wasn’t responsible for trawling through content before it appeared in the search engine. Rather, it only needs to remove content in the event that it was alerted of a clear violation of Europe’s “right to be forgotten” laws.

The decision comes as a result of a case brought forward by two people trying to hold Google accountable for linking to defamatory websites, Reuters reported.

“Instituting a general duty to inspect the content would seriously call into question the business model of search engines, which is approved by lawmakers and wanted by society,” the court said, according to Reuters. It added, “Without the help of such search engines it would be impossible for individuals to get meaningful use out of the internet due to the unmanageable flood of data it contains.”

The ruling follows news that Google received about 2.4 million takedown requests under the European Union’s “right to be forgotten” law over the course of three years. It reportedly complied with 43 per cent of the requests.

The ruling is, in some ways, common sense; requiring Google to check every website for violations of a complex law before it lands among the trillions of search results Google feeds the public a year is a seemingly insurmountable task. But it leaves open the question: How proactive does the general public want internet giants to be in moderating online content?