Website Held Liable for the Way Google Search Excerpted It

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A website in Holland – Miljoenhuizen.nl – has been held liable for the summary that Google search turned up for its site. Yes, you read that right – they were held responsible for the fact that Google excerpted and concatenated text from their webpage in a way that suggested that the plaintiff, the BMW dealership Zwartepoorte, had gone bankrupt.

Let’s be clear: the Miljoenhuizen.nl website did not suggest that the Zwartepoorte dealership had gone bankrupt. Google’s search algorithm grabbed text from Miljoenhuizen.nl’s website, and cobbled it together in the Google search results in such a manner that it appeared that Miljoenhuizen.nl was suggesting that Zwartepoorte had gone bankrupt.


When searching for the terms “Zwartepoorte” and “bankrupt”, Google search returned this summary (translated here):

Complete name: Zwartepoorte Specialiteit: BMW…This company has been declared bankrupt, it has been acquired by the motordealer I have worked for Boat Rialto…

The judge in the case (which was heard in Holland – but that doesn’t mean that people in other countries shouldn’t be concerned) held the web site liable because, according to a translation and [Page no longer available – we have linked to the archive.org version instead], a Dutch law student, “because some Google users did indeed think the company had gone bankrupt, because the company had asked Miljoenhuizen.nl to correct the problem, and because Miljoenhuizen.nl had somehow, at some time in the past, attempted to optimize its Google search ranking.”

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Also, Hoboken goes on to explain, the court stated that “it would be rather easy for Miljoenhuizen.nl to edit its site so that something else turned up in the snippet,”, adding that “this may be because Miljoenhuizen.nl said as much during the court case – before retracting its words in statements to the press.”

Hoboken concludes that “The Court argues that it might be true that the website had no control over the functioning of Google but suggests that these questions about the opacity of Google’s functioning should be addressed in a broader context… then concludes that defendant had its own responsibility.”

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The Internet Patrol is and always has been free. We don't hide our articles behind a paywall, or restrict the number of articles you can read in a month if you don't give us money. That said, it does cost us money to run the site, so if something you read here was helpful or useful, won't you consider donating something to help keep the Internet Patrol free?
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One thought on “Website Held Liable for the Way Google Search Excerpted It

  1. German decided law is almost as bad. You as website promulgator can be held liable for a malefactor’s misleading page you have linked to. There are boiler-plate disavowals of responsibility that every sane webmaster will want to include. Even with them, though, if you negligently fail to act on notice of a problem at a linked site or if you should reasonably have known about it but didn’t, you’ll be on the hook.

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