Menu
Hong Kong tycoon can sue Google over autocomplete feature, court rules

Hong Kong tycoon can sue Google over autocomplete feature, court rules

Albert Yeung has been demanding Google remove suggested search terms connecting his name to Hong Kong's triads

A Hong Kong court has opened the way for a local tycoon to sue Google over its autocomplete feature for adding "triad," a term for Chinese criminal gangs, and "perversion" to his name when searched.

Google has been arguing that the U.S. company is not liable for the way the autocomplete feature offers suggestions based on popular searches. But on Tuesday, the High Court of Hong Kong dismissed Google's claims, and ruled that the company could be held responsible for the content it recommends to users.

The legal dispute comes from Albert Yeung, chairman of Hong Kong-based Emperor Group, who began demanding in 2012 that Google remove the suggested search terms from his name, claiming that they are defamatory.

In addition to the autocomplete feature, Google's search engine will also offer a list of related search terms that connect Yeung's name to Hong Kong crime organizations Sun Yee On and 14K, said an online copy of the court's ruling.

Google claimed that the features try to offer helpful results by reflecting the search activity of past users. "Google Inc is a mere passive facilitator in respect of the words/images seen on its domains," the company's lawyer argued, according to the court document.

But judge Marlene Ng ruled that Yeung still had a strong enough case to warrant suing Google.

"The advantages of having easy access to a rich store of information are many, and they have been widely applauded," Ng said. "But such benefit comes at a price; any risk of misinformation can spread easily as users forage in the Web."

Yeung is seeking damages for libel, claiming that the alleged defamation has damaged his reputation. The judge said if Yeung wins a defamation lawsuit against Google the damages could be high.

"A jury (or judge if the matter is to be tried by judge alone) may consider that such returns by the Autocomplete and Relates Searches features made publicly available to all internet users and persisted after being served with take-down notification merit a substantial award," Ng wrote.

Google declined to comment on the ruling. The company's autocomplete feature has also gotten the company entangled in legal trouble in Europe over similar charges related to libel. Last year, a German court ruled that Google had to remove search suggestions if the results were offensive.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags internetGooglelegalsearch enginesCivil lawsuits

Featured

Slideshows

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners

More than 500 channel leaders gathered in Auckland on 21 October at the ​Reseller News Innovation Awards ​2020 to celebrate the achievements of the New Zealand technology industry's top partners, start-ups, vendors, distributors and individuals.

Channel gathers to celebrate the Reseller News Innovation Awards 2020 winners
Meet the winners of the 2020 Reseller News Innovation Awards

Meet the winners of the 2020 Reseller News Innovation Awards

Reseller News honoured the standout players of the New Zealand channel in front of more than 500 technology leaders in Auckland on 21 October, recognising the achievements of top partners, start-ups, vendors, distributors and individuals.

Meet the winners of the 2020 Reseller News Innovation Awards
Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners

This year’s Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards were held as an integral part of the first entirely virtual Emerging Leaders​ forum, an annual event dedicated to identifying, educating and showcasing the New Zealand technology market’s rising stars. The 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 recognised the outstanding achievements and business excellence of 30 talented individuals​, across both young leaders and those just starting out. In this slideshow, Reseller News honours this year's winners and captures their thoughts about how their ideas of leadership have changed over time.​

Meet the Reseller News 30 Under 30 Tech Awards 2020 winners
Show Comments