Incident 45: Defamation via AutoComplete

Description: Google's autocomplete feature alongside its image search results resulted in the defamation of people and businesses.


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Alleged: Google developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Varied.

Incident Stats

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Incident Date
Sean McGregor

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

From 2011 to 2018, Google has been sued in multiple countries on charges of defamation, as its autocomplete feature for its search engine would imply defamatory statements for businesses and people in China, Ireland, and Germany, and its image search associated an Australian man with the Melbourne criminal underworld.

Short Description

Google's autocomplete feature alongside its image search results resulted in the defamation of people and businesses.



Harm Type

Harm to civil liberties, Other:Reputational harm/social harm (libel and defamation)

AI System Description

Google's autocomplete function in its search engine suggests keywords based on data collection of similar searches; Google Image's image classification model

System Developer


Sector of Deployment

Information and communication

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition, Action

AI Techniques

Machine learning, natural language processing model

AI Applications

recommendation engine, decision support, image recognition, forecasting



Named Entities


Technology Purveyor


Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss




Lives Lost


Laws Implicated

Law of defamation in Australia, EU Electronic Commerce Directive, judgment of Ribeiro PJ in Oriental Press Group Ltd & anor v Fevaworks Solutions Ltd [2013] 5 HKC 253 in Hong Kong

Data Inputs

User Google search input, photos

Google Found Liable For Autocomplete Suggestions In Italy · 2011

Google Found Liable For Autocomplete Suggestions In Italy

from the oh-come-on dept

Here's yet another ridiculously bad ruling for search engines in Italy. Glyn Moody points us to the news of a blog post by a lawyer involved in the case (aga…

Google loses autocomplete defamation case in Italy · 2011

Google has lost a case in Italy over the defamatory nature of autocomplete suggestions, according to a lawyer for the complainant.

Google has lost a case in Italy over the defamatory nature of autocomplete suggestions. Credit: Google

On Tue…

Google guilty of defamation, Italian court rules · 2011

A Milan judge has found Google Italy guilty of defamation because of the way its search engine linked the name of an Italian businessman to the word "fraud" and has ordered the company to modify the operation of its Autocomplete service.

Th… · 2011

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A popular Irish hotel has sued Google for defamation be… · 2012

A new lawsuit alleges that Google's search engine has an anti-Semitism problem.

French anti-discrimination organization SOS Racisme, in association with the Union of Jewish Students of France, the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship …

Google ordered to change autocomplete function in Japan · 2012

Google has been ordered to disable part of its autocomplete function in Japan after complaints it violates privacy.

An unidentified man took the search giant to court over concerns that typing in his name linked him with crimes he was not i…

Google Autocomplete: Former German First Lady Defamation Case · 2012

The problem has its roots in the American service mentality. One could presumably imagine Google as a somewhat overzealous assistant. "Rest your fingers," says the friendly search engine provider. Right from the very first letter that we ty…

Defamation Case Attacks Google Autocomplete Results · 2012

Google searches employ two features: autocomplete and Google instant. These work together to complete your search terms and to automatically load search results while you're typing. While you're probably thankful for the few seconds this sa… · 2012

Such a ruling would mean that Google would not be liable if information displayed via its 'autocomplete' function was defamatory, said media law specialist Ian Birdsey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind

Autocomplete suggest…

Google loses autocomplete defamation suit in Japan · 2013

Tim Hornyak/CNET

A Japanese court has ordered Google to modify its autocomplete function so that it does not suggest a connection to crimes when a Japanese man's name is entered, adding that the Web giant must pay 300,000 yen ($3,100) to th…

How to Deal with Google Suggest Defamation · 2013

Some people say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. It's funny how much time and energy companies and brands devote to marketing activities when a big source of trouble is there, in front of their eyes and needs to be … · 2013

This morning, the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) has held Google liable for a functionality of its search engine, the autocomplete function. The claimants had requested that Google ceased the publication of autocomplete results t… · 2013

Note: A version of the following also appears on the Tow Center blog.

In Germany, a man recently won a legal battle with Google over the fact that when you searched for his name, the autocomplete suggestions connected him to “scientology” a…

Hong Kong Court Rules Tycoon Can Sue Google For Defamation Over Search Results · 2014

REUTERS/Stringer BEIJING (Reuters) - 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 organized crime groups.


Hong Kong tycoon can sue Google over 'autocomplete' search suggestions, court rules · 2014

Google argued that the "entire basis of the internet could be compromised" if it was forced to police what search suggestions people see. Photo: AP

Can Google be sued for a mere search suggestion? A Hong Kong judge says yes. · 2014

The Google logo is reflected in an eye. (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Google’s autocomplete feature has earned meme status for the hilarious and sometimes disturbing search terms it suggests.

For example, if you type “why are” into Google se…

Google held to be a publisher of defamatory autocomplete and related search terms · 2015

The South Australian Supreme Court has found that Google published defamatory statements that appeared in autocomplete and related search terms on its search engine, after it received notice of the defamatory material and failed it remove i…

Google liable for defamation through search and autocomplete features: Duffy v Google · 2015

Is Google liable for defamation for not removing defamatory information in search results? Is Google liable for defamation as a secondary publisher by including hyperlinks to a website that contains defamatory materials when the hyperlink i…

Judgement of the German Federal Court of Justice on Google's autocomplete function · 2016

In May 2013, the German Federal Court of Justice stated that Google’s predictions within the autocomplete function of its web search engine can violate the right of personality.[1] The right of personality ensures that a person’s (or even a…

Defamation via Google search case to be discussed by High Court · 2018

Are Google search results capable of defaming someone? A High Court hearing today may shed light on this very 21st-century question.

The case concerns Milorad Trkulja, who was shot in the back in a Melbourne restaurant in 2004 by an unknown…

Australian to sue Google for defamation over search results · 2018

CANBERRA, Australia -- An Australian man who alleges Google defamed him on Wednesday won a court battle to sue the search engine giant. Milorad "Michael" Trkulja was shot in the back in 2004 in a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia's second …

Man wins right to sue Google for defamation over image search results · 2018

Melbourne man to sue over ‘Melbourne criminal underworld photos’ search results that show his face

This article is more than 9 months old

This article is more than 9 months old

Melbourne man Milorad “Michael” Trkulja has won his high court …

You can now sue Google over defamatory 'innuendo' of search results · 2018

Ever googled yourself and not like what you've found? What if the search engine posted your photo next to that of gangster Chopper Read?

In a landmark case, the High Court has allowed Google to be sued for defamation.

The court today gave M…

Australian man allowed to sue Google for defamation after taking case to High Court · 2018

A MAN who claims Google has defamed him has won his High Court battle to sue the search engine giant.

The court ruled in favour of Milorad "Michael" Trkulja in a judgment on Wednesday, supporting his claim that search engine results could i…

Australia court paves way for Google 'underworld' defamation case · 2018

Entertainment promoter Milorad Trkulja claims Google has continued to disseminate content unfairly linking him to the Melbourne criminal underworld

A court cleared the way for a rare defamation action against Google on Wednesday after a man…

Protecting Google from defamation is worth seriously considering · 2018

It has been a huge week for defamation law.

Last Thursday, the NSW Government announced a push to reform Australia’s uniform defamation laws. It is calling for a “cyber-age reboot”. That proposal was backed by a “statutory review” of the NS…

When auto-complete goes wrong: High Court gives green light to defamation action for Google search results · 2018

A recent High Court decision has opened the door to defamation proceedings that could affect search engine providers, as well as other businesses using search engine optimisation to improve their online profile.

Search engines have, without… · 2018

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Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Monda…

Australian court rules man can sue Google for defamation · 2018

CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian man who alleges Google defamed him on Wednesday won a court battle to sue the search engine giant.

Milorad "Michael" Trkulja was shot in the back in 2004 in a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia's second l…


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