Monday, July 20, 2009

In other news

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Justice Eady for his courage and idefatigability in ruling in favour of Google in response to an attempt to make them liable for libels in search-engine results. I expect my praise for the learned judge to be echoed all over the Decentosphere.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Indefatigability" I presume.


7/20/2009 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I'd be interested to know if the search terms themselves can be libellous, i.e. when you type in something like 'Cheating' and it comes up with popular search terms, if one was 'Cheating on his wife, Tony Blair is' or something a bit more realistic, and it wasn't true (as I'm sure it isn't), who in fact could be sued?

7/20/2009 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I think you'd need intention for a libel suit to work. I mean, you could have headlines on a page in a newspaper which could take on another meaning. To take Matthew's example you could have 'Tony Blair/blah blah' where the slash indicates a line break and in the next column 'Love Cheat/blah blah'. But even if that's a private joke among sub eds, it's not actually libellous.

And search engine results are put together by an algorithm. It wouldn't be hard to get a lot of people to testify in court to that effect. It's silly and paranoid to see it otherwise. Also, you get search engine results dependent on what you search for. Google isn't responsible for what's on the internet. Of course you can search for Tony Blair (or Barack Obama) and eventually find a page which alleges that he's a blood-drinking 10 foot lizard from Sirius. The web is like that.

7/20/2009 07:57:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

But I don't mean the results, more if enough people are searching for a libellous story, then google will start to suggest that to other searchers if they put in Tony Blair (e.g). So a story could emerge without anyone writing about it, could it?

7/21/2009 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

Speaking of libel laws, there's a very Cohenesque space-filler on page 12 of the new Private Eye where he basically comes out and says that Charles Moore's recent slur on the Muslim Council of Britain is the kind of crusading fearless journalism that he thinks is being unfairly stifled by our country's quisling courts.

I hedged my words a little there because it's almost impossible to work out why he thinks a well-heeled right-wing establishment figure like Moore being sued for incredibly defamatory and untrue statements represents such a dark day for free speech. Indeed, he appears so bored by the task that halfway through he abruptly changes the subject to the hugely topical matter of Francis Wheen's Harold Wilson drama that Lady Faulkner sued the Beeb over.

"You scratch my back, I'll stick a knife into Johann Hari's" appears to be the arrangement between those two.

7/22/2009 06:53:00 PM  

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