Case Law, France: X v Google France and Google Inc, Court orders “delisting” of story alleging links to a sex scandal

17 06 2016

0901_google_BIGIn the case of X v Google France and Google Inc (Judgment of 13 May 2016), the Tribunal de grand instance de Paris ordered Google Inc to remove a link to a URL of a blog accusing the applicant of being linked to a sex scandal.

In December 2015, the applicant discovered that when his name was put into the Google search engine, the first page of results included a blog which accused him of being implicated in sexual scandal involving a minor and naming his employer.

The website refused to remove the story and Google refused a “delisting request”.  It said that it had no means of ascertaining whether the content was correct and delinking carried a risk that it would fail it is obligation to contribute to the fight against child pornography and that the author had potentially acted as a whistleblower.   It said that the information was “relevant and up to date” and that reference to this content in search results was justified in the public interest.

The claim had been brought against Google France sarl but Google Inc had intervened in the proceedings.

The Court held that Google France did not directly or indirectly operate the the search engine was not, therefore, a data controller.  The application against that company was dismissed.

In relation to the application against Google Inc, the Court noted that it was necessary to reconcile the fundamental rights of privacy and personal data protection with freedom of information and expression.

Two links were complained of.  In relation to the first, the applicant had not established that this appeared in search results against his name.

The position in relation to the second was different. The statements in question were seriously detrimental to the applicant’s reputation.  The content attacked the applicant’s alleged sexual attraction for children and accused him of committing sexual offences on the internet to the detriment of minors.  It linked his professional position with the sex scandal being attacked.  As his professional situation appeared to be unconnected with the this “scandal” these references appeared to be motivated by a a personal grudge against him.

The applicant had no criminal conviction for activities of the kind mentioned or anything similar.

As a result, the Court granted an interim injunction against Google Inc to delist or suppress the link to the website in question.


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