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China executive permitted to sue Google over autocomplete search terms

[JURIST] A Hong Kong court has ruled [judgment, PDF] that Chinese businessman Dr. Albert Yeung Sau Shing [official profile], chairman of the Emperor Group conglomerate [corporate website], may continue his defamation suit against Google over the autocomplete function of the company's search engine which suggests links connecting Yeung to organized crime groups in China. Yeung originally filed a lawsuit against Google in August 2012 because the company refused to take down search terms linking [AFP report] Yeung to the Triad gang [Thought Catalog report]. Counsel for Yeung argued the autocomplete words are a result of recombinations, aggregations and a synthesis of previous search activity by Google Search algorithms designed by Google Inc. Google argues [WSJ report] they are not responsible for publishing the autocomplete search suggestions, but the company serves as a passive facilitator and the autocomplete suggestions are done without human intervention.

Internet freedom [JURIST backgrounder] and privacy rights on the Internet has emerged as a major international legal issue in recent years. The search engine provider Google [JURIST news archive] has come under scrutiny in recent months for its privacy policies and it is currently litigating in forums around the world. In May the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled [JURIST report] individuals can request that search engines remove links to certain websites containing their personal information. JURIST Guest Columnist Sandy Davidson of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and School of Law discusses Internet reform [JURIST op-ed] and the importance of the "right to be forgotten" on search engines such as Google. In April the Authors Guild [advocacy website] filed an appellate brief [JURIST report] with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, renewing its complaint that Google is violating copyright laws with its mass book digitization project, called the "Library Project." In March a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California denied [JURIST report] the combination of a number of suits into a class action suit against Google for alleged violations of state and federal privacy and wiretapping laws.

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