In yesterday’s post, I looked at Google Autocorrect and how a Romanian brand responded to the unfavorable suggested terms for the Google search query “Romanians are…” launching a “Romanian are smart” campaign. The campaign was successful and more attractive terms replaced the undesired ones. Businesses and individuals can find themselves in similar reputation management cases where they seek the services of SEO companies to resolve the issue. Check out that post for thoughts on what companies can do in such a scenario. However, today we look again at Google’s Autocorrect, but this time in relation to Japan and the object of unfavorable suggested terms is an individual rather than a nationality.
The case is one where the anonymous plaintiff claimed he lost his job, suffered humiliation, and was denied future jobs as a result of an Autocorrect suggestion that when searched produced over 10,000 “defaming” results. The Tokyo District Court issued an injunction against Google last week and they are now reviewing the order. Such litigation against Google for the Autocorrect feature is not new in international markets, especially France, where there has been three such cases. First, Google and former CEO Eric Schmidt were found guilty when unfavorable terms were suggested for a man’s name. Secondly, Google was ordered in January to pay a fine of $65,000 and remove a suggested term from the Autocomplete feature for the search query of another one man’s name. Again Google was found guilty in France for the suggested term “scam” which came up for the Centre National Privé de Formation a Distance (CNFDI). Three others include anti-Semitic suggested terms in Argentina, a case in Belgium where terms that led to illegal versions of a product were suggested, and a suggested term implying financial trouble for a hotel in Ireland.
So suffice to say that this is just the latest case in a trend of legal issues for Google and Autocomplete. And the common denominator: each suite is outside the US. Such cases would likely not hold up within the US legal system and Google is learning how to navigate the judicial system in each market they are in. Most important for digital companies and internet marketers here is tracking the way the courts rule in each country. Although the cases are different, the rulings are quite telling of the way technology is seen and its place in privacy and defamation in that particular market. Keep watching for these cases, as there most likely will be more.