The ground realities are changing as also some of Google practices. There was a time when Google was ready to respond to a court order for defamatory/libel cases and would remove URLs mentioned in the court order. Although such removal was not part of any declared policy, it was the practice that came to be deemed as informal policy. The practice that continued since 2009 has now stopped as observed by many attorneys who specialize in cases related to online defamation. However, it will not be correct to say that it has happened for all requests for removal of defamatory content backed by court orders, but it has affected the vast majority. That there has been a change in Google’s stand that used to act on each and every request for removal is evident from this.
An act of goodness
According to the best Minneapolis SEO,Google’s help page clearly mentions that search engines are not considered as publishers according to the Communications and Decency Act (CDA), hence are not liable for the content that they exhibit. They have also declared that they do not remove defamatory material but have requested to take up the issue with the webmaster of the concerned page for effecting its removal. Google even has a page dedicated to helping those who are looking to remove content from the search engine. However, the reality is that Google did remove defamatory material from search results based on valid court orders.
What has prompted the change?
Since the removal is not legally binding on Google, it cannot be complained that they have violated their policy. Rather, they have corrected their stand that had got diluted for reasons that are best known to them only. In the absence of any official response from Google on this issue, several reasons are floating around that have been surmised by people who are closely observing the development.
- Removal of URLs from search results involves considerable cost for search engines. Since they are not responsible for defamatory content, spending on its removal is waste of money that can be avoided.
- Removal requests come from governments and agencies of other countries that do not have strong laws for freedom of speech like the U.S. Acting on such requests can be embarrassing from the philosophical perspective.
- Google’s earlier practice of removal has been abused by a group of unscrupulous attorneys that had eventually made Google to become a part of immoral acts.
The new debate
The legal immunity that search engines enjoy is now being questioned by many. This has given rise to a new debate that questions the validity of the immunity. The withdrawal of the immunity could make search engines directly responsible for the content that shows up in the search results and could perhaps being to books the real culprits that use defamation as a weapon to damage the reputation and brand value of people, organizations and brands.
The issue is of great importance to Google because its survival is much dependent on how things shape up in future. But as of now, it seems Google will continue with its practice of taking selective action against defamatory content.
About the author – Derek Iwasiuk leads one of the best Minneapolis SEO companies. He has seen the evolution of SEO from close quarters and takes interest in keeping people informed about the developments in the industry. He loves mixing with people and can be connected @Diwasiuk on Twitter.