It has been ruled by German court that Google isn’t required to pre-screen websites for defamation before they are displayed in search results.  This comes from the country’s highest court, the German Federal Court of Justice.

For the plaintiffs, they sought to make Google filter out websites that allegedly displayed defamatory content about them in an IT-related online discussion forum.  They even sought to collect damages from Google for presenting these sites in search results.  According to the plaintiffs, Google had a duty to screen and not display the defamatory material online.

If the ruling had been in favor of the litigants, Google would have had a massive burden placed in their laps to review any and all content in Germany for any potential violation before placing it in the search research results.  But fortunately for Google, Germany realized that this would be very difficult, if not impossible, and held that a duty to take action is triggered only if Google is notified “of a clearly recognizable violation of individuals’ rights.”

The court said, “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, ” according to a Reuters translation. “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.”

This issues seemed to have come from the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF).  It would appear to clearly affirm the broader proposition that Google can’t be held liable for illegal content in search results without being notified first of its disputed or potentially illegal nature.

report was published by Google on February 26 on three years’ worth of RTBF requests and who’s making them.

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