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Google Businesses Censorship The Courts Technology Your Rights Online

French Court Frowns On Autocomplete, Tells Google To Remove Searches 343

New submitter Lexx Greatrex writes with this excerpt from Ars Technica: "Google had been sued by insurance company Lyonnaise de Garantie, which was offended by search results including the word 'escroc,' meaning crook, according to a story posted Tuesday by the Courthouse News Service. 'Google had argued that it was not liable since the word, added under Google Suggest, was the result of an automatic algorithm and did not come from human thought,' the article states. 'A Paris court ruled against Google, however, pointing out that the search engine ignored requests to remove the offending word... In addition to the fine, Google must also remove the term from searches associated with Lyonnaise de Garantie.'"
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French Court Frowns On Autocomplete, Tells Google To Remove Searches

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  • I'm sure... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:48PM (#38616526)

    ...many other here will say it, but what would the French Court say if Google simply removed Lyonnaise de Garantie's website from *all* their results....

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:03PM (#38616740)

    Corporate origin. Government sponsorship. Plain and simple.

    So? All that matters is if Google broke French law.

    I'm still trying to wrap my head around how something like this is a matter of law. I'm reminded of the South Park "Nigger Guy" episode. Is it, in France, unlawful to say "Lyonnaise de Garantie" within three words of "escroc"? Are there other variations which are also unlawful? Can they throw one in prison before telling them they broke the law? How far will this go?

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:07PM (#38616816)

    Monopolies are held to different standards of the law by governments, in order to ensure fair competition. If the monopoly search engine is calling a business bad names, algorithmically or not, well, apparently France believes that's not fair competition.

    Search engines do not call business bad names.
    They don't call anything.

    Search engines simply index the content of pages, and words that appear together on said pages. If thousands of sites routinely place one word next to another how is that Google's problem? Why not go after the web pages that were used to build the search database?

    When I googled the quoted phrase "overly critical guy" and appended the word idiot, I came up with a page someone posted about you. Is this something google did? Is a court order in the offing?

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:11PM (#38616846)

    So Lyonnaise de Garantie's website no longer shows up on searches for escroc. But I bet a fortune that "Lyonnaise de Garantie sues to stop being called escrocs" news reports will soon be one of the top search results for "escroc".

    After all, I doubt the ruling covers news stories written, published and hosted by third parties.

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:12PM (#38616862)

    The story is about how a judge interprets french law in favor of a governmentally sponsored company.

    I'm quite certain there is nothing in French law that states search engines must make sure the pages they index do not contain a name and an insult on the same page.

    So quick to believe anything bad about Google.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:15PM (#38616884)

    If you're on Facebook, post a new status message "Lyonnaise de Garantie escroc" - be sure it's flagged "Public" rather than "Friends only" or whatever. Tweet it too, if you're so inclined.

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:30PM (#38617032)

    Search engines do not call business bad names.
    They don't call anything.

    I'm not advocating the decision of the court (and so the downloads of my post are just weird), I'm simply explaining why they made the decision. The search engine did call a business a bad name--it associated a negative term with the name of the business. If Google was just another search engine, nobody would care, but they're practically the gateway to the web and the #1 way that people find information about things.

    Remember when Microsoft instituted a browser ballot? But they listed them in alphabetical order, and so Opera complained about their placement on the list, forcing Microsoft to randomize the order? Microsoft could have argued that they weren't placing the browsers in any sort of priority list, and that it was the order of the alphabet that placed them that way, but that wasn't the point--the courts decided that Microsoft's influence was so huge that, regardless of the reason, the list was biased against browsers that placed lower than others alphabetically.

    The same is true here. Google didn't intervene and call anybody names, but their influence is so huge and dominant that the court has decided it is a violation of free market competition for it to libel (as they perceive it) a business. I'm not advocating any position; I'm just explaining why Google is being held to such a unique standard, just as Microsoft was.

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:35PM (#38617104)

    Unless you are a French citizen or live in France you have no right to complain.

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mistlefoot ( 636417 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @08:58PM (#38617318)
    They are forced to provide human interaction so no. And even if they removed crook what's to stop fraud or theft or who knows what from algorithmically being pulled up after "Lyonnaise de Garantie". The only rational choice is to remove "Lyonnaise de Garantie" as they cannot anticipate searches that might offend this company in the future, and manually remove them.
  • Re:I'm sure... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:15PM (#38617508)

    All nice and fine, but I guess we can agree that Google has a dominant market position in search engines, much like MS has/had in operating systems. Them deciding to delist a company means that a sizable portion of traffic to them is lost.

    In a situation like this it doesn't really matter whether it is a "real" monopoly, even an oligopoly is bad enough. Imagine Google, Yahoo and Bing shared the market at 1/3 each. In such a case, either of them deciding to delist a company means a serious blow to traffic, even though neither of them has even 50% market share, let alone a monopoly position.

    Search engines are not like your everyday oligopoly like oil, gas or power. Because everything is in reverse. An oil company deciding to not deliver to your country anymore doesn't really matter much, because you do not need oil from all of them. Just one will do. It's not that way here. You need the traffic, i.e. the users finding you in a search, from all of them, losing one is already a problem. The impact would be felt even if Bing or Yahoo decided to pull such a stunt, albeit maybe to a lesser degree than when a dominant engine like Google did it.

    So, no, it's not a monopoly in the classic sense. But this isn't a classic case either.

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @09:19PM (#38617546)

    It's still not Google deciding that these words should appear in that order. It's understandable that the company doesn't want those words to be associated with them, but you have to admit, autocomplete doesn't really do anything but take the most used search terms and suggest them. So I'd say this company has bigger problems than Google's autocomplete feature...

  • Re:Censorship. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Friday January 06, 2012 @10:27PM (#38618190) Journal

    No Google is pretty clearing suggesting these are the search terms you might want based on the fact others used these search terms. You'd have to be pretty F'ing brain dead not understand that. Its a factual statement, Google isn't saying the company has committed fraud or anything of the sort, just that you might be looking for these search terms.

    I actually do exactly that often. I Google companies (especially local service providers) and combine their names with words like: fraud, theft, poor, dirty, etc/. Most of the time nothing comes up and that's good.

  • Re:Wrong conclusion. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rennt ( 582550 ) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:53AM (#38619096)

    It's getting pretty tenuous to dismiss communism as "failed", based on the relative "success" of capitalism at this point. But I don't think ShieldW0lf was talking about communism at all. Collective ownership and organization does not require centralized control. Capitalism is a form of distributed ownership and organization with efficient distribution of resources provided by a bit of Game Theory. Or that is the idea anyway.

    The whole point of Game Theory is to structure the rules of the game to encourage the behavior your want and discourage the behavior you don't. We do this at a economy-level game with regulation. The current rules encourage exploitation - "You get used and cheated and swindled because it's the only way to get you off your fucking asses." - but this can be fixed without resorting to communism.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 07, 2012 @04:19AM (#38619956)

    In case anyone is really interested: 15 minutes of googling and web browsing indicates that Quaero is an EU-funded research project that develops multilingual text-to-speech technology and image search technology. That's what they are doing and their results have been commercialized by several European enterprise software houses like Exalead. Apparently the French government couldn't find any more relevant or competent takers for their "French search engine" funding, so the Quaero partners have paid some lip service for that idea.

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