Japanese Court Orders Removal of Google Autocomplete Terms in Defamation Case

Pulkit Chandna

First introduced in late 2004 as a Google Labs project, Google’s autocomplete search feature has been an integral part of the world’s most popular search engine ever since its widespread rollout in 2008. This nifty search aid hasn’t had a controversy-free existence, however. It now finds itself at the heart of a fresh controversy in Japan. More after the jump.

A Japanese court has ordered the removal of certain terms from Google’s autocomplete search feature . According to a report by The Japan Times , the court was acting on a petition accusing Google’s autocomplete feature of being defamatory. The petition was filed by a Japanese man (name not disclosed) who alleged that some of the autocomplete suggestions accompanying his name were not only defamatory but also breached his privacy. The unnamed petitioner, in fact, claimed that these defamatory search suggestions even cost him his job.

"This [autocomplete feature] can lead to irretrievable damage, such as job loss or bankruptcy, just by displaying search results that constitute defamation or violation of the privacy of an individual person or small and medium-size companies," The Japan Times quoted the man's lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita as saying.

But Google seems to be in no mood to subject itself to the Japanese court’s order. It contends that the court has no jurisdiction over its U.S. headquarters, and that its own privacy policy does not necessitate the deletion of any search terms in this matter.

"A Japanese court issued a provisional order requesting Google to delete specific terms from autocomplete," the Google spokesperson said in a statement. "The judge did not require Google to completely suspend the autocomplete function."

The autocomplete feature has found itself in the middle of similar controversies in the past too, with virtually identical cases being filed in other countries as well.

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