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Google libel.

March 27, 2012

Tamiz v Google Inc Google UK Ltd [2012] EWHC 449 (QB)

The Claimant had been a Conservative party candidate. Allegations were made on the Google blogger platform posted anomonously which stated “Tory Muslim candidate Payam Tamiz resigns after calling girls sluts”. Further comments appeared some of which were abuse but others were of a very serious nature. No proceedings were brought against the blogger.

The Claimant reported the matter to Google in April and then sent a letter of claim to Google in June.

The complaint was passed on to the blogger who then removed the comments. The letter was passed on to Google Inc in the USA. The Claimant was granted permission to serve the proceedings outside the UK. The application made was to set aside the order for service outside the jurisdiction.

Google argued it had no control of the content, Blogger only provided the tools to create the content.

Eady J allowed Google Inc’s appeal holding that Google Inc was not liable as a publisher. In the alternative, Eady J believed that Google Inc would be exempt from liability in accordance with s1 Defamation Act 1996 or Reg 19 of the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002.

It was held to be significant that Google was not required to take any positive step in the process of the accessibility of the material whether notified or not.

Eady J held that Google Inc should not be regarded as a publisher, or even as one who authorised publication. Google Inc’s role as a platform provider was thought to be purely a passive one.

“One needs to be wary of analogies when considering modern technology, but it may perhaps be said that the position is, according to Google Inc, rather as though it owned a wall on which various people had chosen to inscribe graffiti. It does not regard itself as being more responsible for the content of these graffiti than would the owner of such a wall.”

Eady J concluded that the court should decline jurisdiction in the proceedings and the order for service out of the jurisdiction was set aside.

It will still be a brave site which ignores notification of such a claim and leaves the offending piece online.

It may be the case that the decision is appealed. The refusal of Google to play any part at all in the process was the determining factor.

A site which removes content,removes postings and has policies in place may well face a different decision.