Search Engines and the Automated Process: Is a Search Engine Provider 'a Publisher' of Defamatory Material?
(2014) 20 NZBLQ 200
14 Pages Posted: 4 Jul 2014 Last revised: 6 Mar 2015
Date Written: July 1, 2014
Is the search engine provider a “publisher” in defamation law if the results of an online search include snippets of defamatory material and links to defamatory comments on a third party’s website? Although guiding principles are emerging from international decisions in regard to the potential liability of other internet intermediaries for publishing defamatory material, the liability of a search engine provider remains uncertain. In essence, this is because the search engine provider argues that its results are entirely produced by an automated process. The article refutes this argument. It suggests that in most instances a search engine provider that provides links to defamatory material is liable as a publisher. However, the article also proposes that a search engine provider may have the defence of innocent dissemination available to it, providing it can show that it has not been negligent. One way of demonstrating this would be for the search engine provider to make use of text analysis technologies to filter out potentially defamatory materials from its search results.
Keywords: defamation, search engine, intermediary, publisher
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation