Argentine judge: Google, Yahoo must censor searches

12 Nov Argentine judge: Google, Yahoo must censor searches

CNET News, By Stephanie Condon, November 11, 2008
 
If an Argentine sports fan tried searching Yahoo Argentina for one of his country’s most beloved athletes–soccer star Diego Maradona–these days, he’d be out of luck. Both Yahoo and Google are locked in a legal battle with dozens of fashion models and other public figures like Maradona over whether the Internet companies should have to censor search results relating to those persons’ names. The result so far: since last year, Internet users have been left with abbreviated search results from Yahoo Argentina and Google Argentina, as a result of temporary restraining orders handed down by Argentine judges. The restraining orders against Google and Yahoo mean the search companies must censor search results from their Argentine sites for information about the plaintiffs, such as their names. The court orders do not apply to the U.S. sites Google.com and Yahoo.com. The move effectively holds the search companies responsible for content on other Web sites, a legal maneuver that would not be possible in the United States or the European Union, according to a Google representative. In the United States, federal law generally says that search engines are not responsible for the content of pages they index. Google first received an injunction to block references to the individuals on its Argentina search engine in mid-2007, after refusing to do so voluntarily, said Alberto Arebalos, Google’s director of Latin America global communications and public affairs. A group of about 70 fashion models, represented by the same lawyer, initially asked the Internet company to block all search results with their names with the intent of blocking pornographic sites that used the models’ pictures. Google responded that it would only block specific problematic links, provided it could notify users, Arebalos said. The matter was taken to court, and judges in Argentina have so far sided with the models. Other public figures–including Maradona and Judge María Servini de Cubría–have in recent months sought out the same lawyer to successfully block search results about them on Google and Yahoo as well. The move amounts to a class action suit against the Internet companies, although there’s technically no such thing as a class action suit in Argentina. The lawyer representing all the plaintiffs, Martin Leguizamon Peña, has sought damages between 100,000 and 400,000 pesos for his clients (about $30,000 to more th an $121,000). Both Google and Yahoo have unsuccessfully appealed the restraining orders and are now complying with them while the underlying lawsuits filed by Peña’s clients are pending.