A Kiwi is taking his case against Google to the High Court today.
Matthew McClelland, who represents the un-named man, said he wants to have a defamatory post removed from an international website and claims it is Google New Zealand’s responsibility.
According to Stuff.co.nz, the question is whether or not Google is a publisher and if innocent dissemination of defamatory material defences applies.
The problem post appeared on an American “consumer advocacy” website called RipoffReport.com in 2008.
It claimed that a person identified in court as ‘A’, who worked in the medical profession in New Zealand, had been caught masturbating over photographs of children. It included his name, address, profession and contact information.
Other than the word ‘Kiwi’, the site did not reveal anything about the person who wrote the post or how to get in contact. McClelland said his client denied the claims made in the post.
But when his client’s name was typed into a search engine such as Google, the link and a snippet from the post appeared high up in the search results.
In 2010, when the post was having a negative impact on his job, ‘A’ started writing to Google, YahooXtra and RipoffReport.com asking for the defamatory post to be removed or blocked.
YahooXtra and Google New Zealand both blocked the post but the American website said it never “took things down”.
But the post soon reappeared as a search result on Google and associate judge Abbott said it was something of a chameleon – but rather than changing its spots, it changed its URL.
The victim continued to write to Google which took it down, but after a while, Google started saying that it had no ability to control things.
McClelland argued that his client had the right to sue Google New Zealand for defamation because it knew about the post and had the ability to remove it was a publisher.
He said he could not sue Google in the US because of the costs involved so he was suing Google New Zealand instead.
Google New Zealand claimed that he had sued the wrong company.