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Judge Allows Libel Suit Based on Google Autocomplete Search Results

08.08.14

A Hong Kong Judge disagreed with Google that Google’s Autocomplete may have created libeleous content and “cited Europe’s recent ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling requiring Google to remove embarrassing or outdated search results upon request” as reported by the Washington Post. On August 5, 2014 Deputy High Court Judge Marlene Ng ruled that a lawsuit for libel could proceed based on Google Autocomplete because:

Hong Kong business tycoon Albert Yeung Sau-shing Googled his name, the autocomplete feature suggested the word “triad,” a term that, in Asia, is associated with organized crime.

The Washington Post pointed out libel standards in Hong Kong are similar to the US, and even though Mr. Yeung has an impressive business background he has also been convicted of some crimes:

Yeung is the founder and chairman of Emperor Group, a sprawling business empire that includes property development, entertainment and financial services. He has been found guilty of crimes including illegal bookmaking and perverting the course of public justice, and has been fined for insider trading.

Google’s Autocomplete does not produce every possible option since the algorithm of Google Autocomplete (which cannot be turned off):

…automatically detects and excludes a small set of search terms for things like pornography, violence, hate speech, illegal and dangerous things, and terms that are frequently used to find content that violates copyrights.

Although Google Autocomplete is a great tool, the libel ruling in this Hong Kong case may alter how Google provides services in the future.

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Search Tips:

You may use the wildcard symbol (*) as a root expander.  A search for "anti*" will find not only "anti", but also "anti-trust", "antique", etc.

Entering two terms together in a search field will behave as though an "OR" is being used.  For example, entering "Antique Motorcars" as a Client Name search will find results with either word in the Client Name.

Operators

AND and OR may be used in a search.  Note: they must be capitalized, e.g., "Project AND Finance." 

The + and - sign operators may be used.  The + sign indicates that the term immediately following is required, while the - sign indicates to omit results that contain that term. E.g., "+real -estate" says results must have "real" but not "estate".

To perform an exact phrase search, surround your search phrase with quotation marks.  For example, "Project Finance".

Searches are not case sensitive.

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