Google ordered to remove defamatory search suggestions

A top German court has ordered Google Inc. to act on requests to remove autocomplete entries from its search engine after a lawsuit claimed the feature made defamatory suggestions.

German company sues Google over autocomplete feature that links name with fraud, Scientology

Google's autocomplete function will suggest possible search words once you start typing into the search window. In the above example, typing 'cho' calls up numerous suggestions from 'chocolate chip cookies' to 'cholera' - based in part on terms that other users have searched for. A company in Germany has alleged that the suggestions made when its name was typed into the search engine were defamatory and a court ruled in such cases, the entries must be removed.

A top German court has ordered Google Inc. to act on requests to remove autocomplete entries from its search engine after a lawsuit claimed the feature made defamatory suggestions.

The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe upheld a complaint from an unidentified company selling nutritional supplements and its founder, identified only as "R.S."

The plaintiffs claimed when their names were entered on Google's German-language website, the search engine suggested the search terms "Scientology" and "fraud."

The autocomplete function is based on algorithms that take into account what other users have searched for.

In its decision, the court said Google didn't have to vet all autocomplete suggestions in advance but did have to remove defamatory results when notified.

A spokeswoman for Google in Germany said the company would comment on the verdict later Tuesday.

A similar defamation lawsuit was launched last year by Bettina Wulff, the wife of former German president Christian Wulff. She alleged that when her name was typed into Google, the terms 'prostitute' and 'red light district' popped up.