A woman who tried to sue Facebook and Google in January over claims she was defamed on the platforms has lost her legal battle.
Camille Saskia Richardson sued the UK divisions of Google and Facebook for the defamation, but her bid was blocked by High Court Master Jervis Kay QC in June, who said that as the subsidiaries were not directly responsible they could not be liable for the actions of the parent company.
Camille Saskia Richardson’s bid to appeal the decision when Justice Warby ruled the decision of Jervis Kay QC.
Google has settled the dispute between it and businessman, Daniel Hegglin, who brought legal action against the mere conduit search engine provider in the UK High Court.
Google’s representative, Antony White QC told the court: “Google has considerable sympathy for Mr Hegglin in what is an exceptional case of internet trolling in terms of its prominence and volume.
“Google provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content.
“It will however continue to apply its procedures that have been developed to assist with the removal of content which breaches applicable local laws.”
Daniel Hegglin’s counsel, Hugh Tomlinson QC, said that Google had made “significant efforts” to remove abusive comments from the search results it is a mere conduit of. He said: “Whilst I am not in a position to disclose the details, I am pleased to report that the parties have now settled the matter.
“The settlement includes significant efforts on Google’s part to remove the abusive material from Google hosted websites and from its search results.“
The Chief Executive Officer of Crocels, the international corporation of online community and e-learning specialists, says that he will be ensuring that all Crocels websites comply with the EU-ruling that private-figures have the right to have articles about them on the Internet removed, but was mindful of the rights of its US customers.
“Crocels has most of its services dependent on free speech located in the United States,” he said. “We will be looking at whether the most appropriate way to respond to this is to provide full access to our content to audiences outside the EU where freedom of expression is most accepted,” he said. “The issue can be seen as a double-edge-sword as the right to privacy has to be balanced with the right to free speech, and it is likely our policies will be formed on the basis that private-figures will be allowed to have articles removed – such as from the Encyclopedia of Trollers – but public figures will not.”
The “Right to be forgotten” was introduced when Spanish medic Mario Costeja Gonzalez brought legal action against Google after they discovered that Google, as a mere conduit of Internet content, was making available information about them that they wanted kept private. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Mario Costeja Gonzalez was entitled to the “right to be forgotten” under Article 26 TFEU through Directive 95/46/EC and that Google had a responsibility to not be a carrier of such personal information. Google’s response to this was to put a form on its website for persons to ask for information to be removed from their search engine, which received 12,000 requests on its first day. It might be that US-based operations in order to protect free speech would have to develop means to ensure that those in the EU have the right to privacy and protection of their personal data, while also ensuring that those in the US do not have their rights to freedom of expression impinged up on.
Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, who has a Master of Laws degree in European Union Law, says the Court of Justice of the European Union’s decision to censor entries in Google Search results breaks its own laws.
This week the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU or ECJ) ruled that the fact that Google allowed people to access websites about Spanish medic Mario Costeja Gonzalez was in breach of his rights.
Jonathan Bishop is editor of the book, ‘Examining the Concepts, Issues and Implications of Internet Trolling,’ with many research papers in the area of cyberlaw and says the CJEU got it wrong. “Articles 43 and 44 of the E-Commerce Directive says that Google as a service provider is a ‘mere conduit’ that ‘caches’ content, but does not control it,” he said. “Google have not deliberately collaborated with the publication of the material Mario Costeja Gonzalez wants to censor so they should not be expected to police the Internet.
“If Mario Costeja Gonzalez has any problem with the content of websites that Google indexes then he should take it up with that website, who under the law is the publisher of the content so Google should not be made responsible.”
Conservative MP David Davis is a former shadow home secretary. “The presumption by internet companies and others that they can use peoples personal information in any way they see fit is wrong, and can only happen because the legal framework in most states is still in the last century when it comes to property rights in personal information,” he said.
Bishop disagreed and said Google should take litigation through to the European Court of Human Rights. “The CJEU is the highest court in the European Union, but its decisions have no effect on the European Court of Human Rights,” he said. “If Google were to take their case to the ECtHR then I am confident that they would side with Google on the basis of freedom of expression” he continued. “The CJEU has a long established principle of respecting the decisions of the ECtHR, so they may then revise their decision if Google appealed the national decision on the grounds of human rights.“