French Associations Take Google to Court over Search Suggestion Service11. May 2012 - 13:27 — Dejan Georgievski
Four French associations have decided to take Google to court for its automatic suggestion of the word “Jew” when searching for the names of several French personalities.
The Union of Jew Students of France (Union des étudiants juifs de France UEJF), J'accuse! International Action for Justice (Action internationale pour la justice AIPJ), SOS Racisme and the Movement against Racism and for the Friendship Between Peoples (Mouvement contre le rasisme et pour l’amitie entre les peoples MRAP) consider that Google’s feature (called Google Suggest) that suggests the association of the word “Jew” with personalities users look for, may lead to the creation of probably the largest Jew file in history.
The associations complain about the fact that the image of an omnipresence of Jews leading France is thus largely shared and amplified. According to them, by this association, Google infringes the law preventing the creation of ethnical files. Therefore, based on article L226-19 of the Penal Code they ask the court to forbid Google "to store or keep as information memory, without the consent of the people involved, the personal data which, directly or indirectly, make the racial or ethnical origin appear” and to forbid the association of the word “Jew” with the names of natural people occurring in Internet users’ searches.
The Penal Code stipulates a penalty of 5 years of imprisonment and 300 000 Euro fine for the creation of such files. On the other hand, the French Constitution says that the Republic “assures the equality before the law of all citizens, irrespective of their origin, race or religion”.
This is not the first time the company is criticised over its Google Suggests service. In 2010 and 2011, Google France was condemned because its algorithms suggested expressions considered defamatory or injurious. But those cases were specific to a certain search or name, and not to the same keyword being used in various searches.
Google is presently limiting the range of the automatic suggestions by applying strict rules on pornographic, violent or hate inciting content and some terms apparently used to search for content that may infringe copyrights (such as "bittorent"). The measure, which is not detailed in a clear policy, has been heavily criticised for being actually a method to censor the results.
During the hearing that took place on 2 May, the analysis of the automatic word suggestions was delayed for 23 May in order to give the associations the time to examine Google’s arguments in the matter.
For further reading (in French only) read the articles on the matter published by lemonde.fr on April 28, and by numerama.com on May 2, 2012. (Source: European Digital Rights EDRI)
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