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German court rules Google isn't required to vet websites

It would be virtually impossible to catch everything that breaks the rules.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 27, 2018
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Reuters/Morris Mac Matzen

Do search engines have an obligation to make sure every website obeys the law before listing it? They certainly don't in Germany. The country's Federal Court of Justice has ruled that Google isn't required to vet sites for defamatory material before they appear in its results. Two people had demanded that Google create filters to avoid showing sites where the complainants had been verbally attacked, but the court determined that search firms like Google only had to take action when notified that a site has clearly violated someone's rights.

Asking a search provider to vet each and every site would make it "impossible" to get much use out of the internet, according to the court. There's an "unmanageable flood of data" online, and requiring companies like Google to ensure that every site is legal would "seriously call into question" the very nature of a search site's business model despite its legality.

European Union countries have a "right to be forgotten" that lets residents scrub search results with outdated or irrelevant info, such as a criminal case where the charges were dropped. However, the German ruling makes it clear that this right doesn't extend to people hurling verbal abuse, and certainly doesn't cover preemptive screening -- Google doesn't have to ensure that you only see kind words. And while Google can set up general filters for clearly illegal content, the sheer volume of content added to the internet every day would make it utterly impractical to guarantee that every search result honors the law.

In this article: gear, germany, google, internet, law, search, web
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