Google has been ordered by a Tokyo court to remove auto-complete results that link a man to crimes he says he didn’t commit.
“The auto-complete function in Google’s search bar fills in crimes when my client’s name is entered,” said Tokyo lawyer Hiroyuki Tomita.
“He lost his job, and has had other job offers rescinded, likely because of this association.”
The search giant likely links the man’s name to the crime terms because a false story about him containing allegations apparently spread across various sites, which were then indexed by the search giant, Tomita said. The man says he has no knowledge of the types of crimes that appear.
Google did not respond to a request for comment on this case. The company has faced similar cases in other countries and has usually responded with the defense that it is not responsible for the results, as they are automatically generated, though this defense has not always succeeded. The company does screen some terms from its auto-complete feature, including pornographic words.
Last year in Italy, a court ordered that Google filter out search suggestions damaging to individual reputations after a man’s name was linked to “con man” and “fraud.” The company was fined in France because an insurance company was linked to the word “crook,” and has also been the subject of litigation from a hotel in Ireland and individuals in the U.S., according to media reports.
The Tokyo district court approved the legal request last week and it was sent to Google’s legal representation with a deadline of Sunday to remove the auto-completion results, but as of Monday no action had been taken, Tomita said. In the Japanese legal system, the approval lays the groundwork for further action if it the request is not followed, and the lawyer said he was considering pursuing financial damages.
The man’s name and the crimes associated with it were not revealed for privacy reasons. His lawyer said that after he was fired from one job and had offers rescinded, he was told by some of the companies that the search results linked to his name were a factor.