BEIJING Aug 6 A Hong Kong court has ruled that
a local tycoon can sue Google Inc for defamation
because searches for his name on Google suggest adding the word
'triad', Hong Kong's notorious organised crime groups.
Searches in both English and Chinese for Albert Yeung
Sau-shing, the founder and chairman of Hong Kong-based
conglomerate Emperor Group, will automatically suggest phrases
related to organised crime using Google's 'autocomplete'
On Tuesday, the High Court of Hong Kong dismissed Google's
argument that it was not responsible for the autocomplete
suggestions related to Yeung and that the court did not have
personal jurisdiction over the U.S. search giant.
Google frequently finds itself embroiled in legal issues
over what results are shown by its search engine. The European
Union's top court in May ruled that people have a right to
request that years-old personal information that is no longer
relevant be removed from Internet search results.
"There is a good arguable case that Google Inc is the
publisher of the Words and liable for their publication," said
Marlene Ng, the deputy high court judge, in her ruling.
Google declined to comment on the verdict.
Yeung is seeking damages from Google for libel and wants the
company to remove the defamatory search suggestions, court
Google argued that autocomplete works according to an
automated algorithm and the company is not responsible for the
resulting suggestions, which change depending on what a critical
mass of users search for.
"The entire basis of the internet will be compromised if
search engines are required to audit what can be assessed by
users using their search tools," court documents attributed
Gerard McCoy, Google's lawyer, as saying.
"It would be impossible for Google Inc to manually interfere
with or monitor the search processes given the billions of
searches conducted by Google Search," McCoy said according to
Because Google did not protest that the autocomplete
suggestions were defamatory and they have criminal associations,
Google may end up paying a large amount of money if Yeung sues
"In my view, it cannot be said at this stage that damages
for reputational damage in Hong Kong are likely to be minimal if
Yeung wins at trial," Ng said.
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; Additional reporting by Venus Wu in
HONG KONG; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)