In one of the first rulings of its kind, a French court last month ordered Google to remove links to defamatory information from its search results globally.
Up to now, most rulings have limited themselves to the local top level domain – such as Google.fr. However, the decision of the High Court in Paris was that this would be insufficient because even in France users can search using the Google.com domain.
However despite some media reporting, this is not the same as asking the search giant to de-index your information under the so-called “right to be forgotten” ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in May.
That ruling ordered Google to remove links to a 10-year-old Spanish newspaper notice about a mortgage foreclosure against Costeja González, a 58-year-old Spaniard, because he successfully argued that the information was “outdated and irrelevant”.
However the information was itself lawful and accurate. In the latest French case, the information that the links pointed to was found to be defamatory. If Google does not comply, it will face daily fines of €1,000 – which is chump change for the web goliath.
Since the right-to-be-forgotten ruling in May, Google has set up an online form that people can use if they want certain information de-linked from search results for their name. How Google decides on the merits of these requests is not clear, but it does, for the time being, seem to be erring on the side of complying with them.
But any right-to-be-forgotten de-linking is only for search results carried out on Google’s European domains, such as Google.fr or .co.uk.
The question of scope is almost certain to come up and this latest French ruling will add weight to certain arguments. The Advisory Council will be in Berlin on 14 October, London on 16 October and Brussels on 4 November. ®