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Google in clear over 'defamatory' search results

Search engine is facilitator not publisher

Google has won a landmark ruling in the UK which states that the search giant cannot be held responsible for content that shows up in web searches.

A UK lawsuit filed by distance learning company Metropolitan International Schools claimed that by reproducing defamatory comments that appear in news stories, blogs and forums, Google is liable as a publisher and therefore subject to defamation law.

Google defamationThe case had significant implications for search engines and other online services which reproduce snippets of content from third-party websites. However, Justice David Eady, at the High Court in London, said Google cannot "be regarded as a publisher of the words complained of". He described Google as a "facilitator" rather than a publisher of the content.

"Mr Justice Eady made clear if someone feels they have been defamed by material on a website then they should address their complaint to the person who actually wrote and published the material, and not a search engine, which simply provides a searchable index of content on the internet," a Google spokesman told The Guardian.

"This is the first judicial analysis of search engine liability for defamation under UK law and it's undoubtedly a brilliant result for Google and other search engines," said Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer at Pinsent Masons.


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