Google to Pay Montrealer 500000 for Defamation

Google to Pay Montrealer $500,000 for Defamation

In his decision late last month, Judge Azimuddin Hussain also ordered Google to remove links to the article from its Quebec search results.

The judge said search engines have a responsibility under Quebec law to remove links to illegal content — including defamatory messages — once they are made aware of its existence.

The man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, discovered the defamatory content in 2007 when he searched his name on Google. He is described in the court ruling as a prominent businessman […] with a long list of achievements in Canada and the United States.

Like Franz Kafka’s character Josef K. in The Trial, Mr Hussain said the plaintiff woke up one day to find himself accused of a crime he had not committed. In the plaintiff’s case, he is accused of having already been convicted of the crime, a particularly heinous crime.

With the help of a friend, the complainant tried unsuccessfully to have the material removed from the website on which his name first appeared. He also asked Google to remove links to the site, along with a brief snippet of the site, from the search engine results page.

Google ignored the complainant, told him there was nothing they could do, told him they could remove the hyperlink in the Canadian version of their search engine but not in the US version, and then, following a 2011 ruling, left it back in the Canadian version appear The Supreme Court of Canada in a case unrelated to the publication of hyperlinks, the judge wrote.

Google didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

A sequence of events

The ruling says that in 2009 Google removed a link to the article from search results that appeared on its Canadian website. At the man’s request, Google removed the links twice more — later that year and in 2011 — after the article reappeared in search results.

However, after the man found a link to the content in Google’s search results in 2015, the company refused to remove the link. The plaintiff found himself adrift in a surreal and torturous contemporary online ecosystem as he underwent a grim odyssey to remove the defamatory article from public circulation, the judge wrote.

Mr Hussain limited the scope of his decision to Google’s refusal in 2015 to remove the links to the publication and subsequent events.

Multiple episodes

The man, now in his 70s, told the court he believed potential clients had backed away from contracts because they saw the post, adding that his successful career had begun to crumble.

Two friends said they refused to use their influence to help him find a job because they feared the article would thwart those efforts. According to the verdict, his personal relationships, including those with his two sons, also suffered.

One son said his girlfriend’s parents refused to meet his father because of defamatory content online. The son said after he had a runaway hit, people told him they googled his name and asked him about the article about his father.

The judge wrote of the plaintiff that he had previously been an extraordinary personality, full of self-confidence and self-confidence. After that, he became an empty shell, prone to anger, isolation, excessive drinking and suicidal thoughts.

Google’s Defense

Google, headquartered in California and incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware, argued that Quebec’s defamation law did not apply to the case and that it was not required under US law to remove the link. The company also argued that even if Quebec law applied, it could not be held liable under the free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The judge disagreed. Mr Hussain said that while it is true that under Quebec law Google is not responsible for the content it links to – and is not required to monitor that content – the company has a duty to act when it comes across it is informed access to infringing material.

Mr. Hussain awarded $500,000 in moral damages to the man who originally sought $6 million in damages. However, the judge declined to award punitive damages because Google acted in good faith in refusing to remove the links in 2015.

The judge also named the two websites that published the original defamatory article and ordered Google to ensure that search results available in Quebec did not include links to pages on those websites that mention the complainant’s name.

The complainant had asked for a permanent ban on the publication of his identity, but Mr Hussain said he was inclined to reject the request. Instead, the judge issued a 45-day publication ban to give the man time to challenge that part of the decision in a higher court.