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

See all articles by Susan Corbett

Susan Corbett

Victoria University of Wellington

Date Written: July 1, 2014

Abstract

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

Corbett, Susan Felicity, Search Engines and the Automated Process: Is a Search Engine Provider 'a Publisher' of Defamatory Material? (July 1, 2014). (2014) 20 NZBLQ 200, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2461499 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2461499

Susan Felicity Corbett (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

PO Box 600
New Zealand
+64 4 4635480 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/sacl/staff/susan-corbett.aspx

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