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France

French court tells Google to bury Mosley orgy images

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-11-07

A French court on Wednesday ordered Google to remove links to nine indecent images of former Formula One boss Max Mosley in a landmark case described by the search engine as “a troubling ruling with serious consequences for free expression”.

A French court ordered search giant Google on Wednesday to block its search engine in France from providing links to images of Max Mosley at a sex party with prostitutes, five years after the ex-Formula One chief sued the UK newspaper that published them.

The decision by the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris referred to images of Mosley published in 2008 by now-defunct British tabloid The News of the World. The pictures showed Mosley, 73, being whipped and tied up by five prostitutes dressed in German-style military uniforms, in a scene described by the paper as “a sick Nazi orgy”.

Mosley admitted to taking part in sadomasochistic activity with the five prostitutes – and paying them £2,500 ($4,000) – but denied the orgy was Nazi-themed. In 2008 he successfully sued the paper for breach of privacy, winning £60,000 ($90,000) in damages.

In 2011 he won a similar privacy case in France – where the paper was also distributed – and was awarded £32,000.

But today, the images remain online and are easily accessible with the use of a few key words. Mosley, who said in 2009 that he lost his dignity following the publication of the photos, argued that Google had not done enough to remove the pictures.

Wednesday’s ruling means that Google now has two months to make them disappear.
"[Google must] remove and cease, for a period of five years beginning two months after this decision, the appearance of nine images identified by Max Mosley in the Google Images search engine results," the court ordered.

Google will also have to pay damages of €5,000 ($6,700) to the former motor-racing magnate.

‘Censorship machine’

The decision comes as a blow to the world’s largest search engine, which is trying to reassert its position as a platform that provides links – and is not a global policeman of online content. While the search engine can delete images, it cannot prevent the same images from being reposted.

Google said it would appeal the decision and released a statement on Wednesday describing it as “a troubling ruling with serious consequences for free expression”.

Keeping the images offline would require new software to automatically find and remove fresh postings, Google's associate general counsel Daphne Keller said.

"Even though we already provide a fast and effective way of removing unlawful material from our search index, the French court has instructed us to build what we believe amounts to a censorship machine," she said.

In a blog post published in September, Google said it had already removed “hundreds of pages for Mr. Mosley”, describing this “new model of automated censorship” as “dangerous [and] alarming”.

Google is leading a battle along with other Internet companies against a draft European law that would give consumers greater rights online, specifically in requesting the removal of specific content.

Google is facing a number of other privacy lawsuits in Europe, one of which has been filed by Mosley in Germany. A decision on that case is expected early next year.

(With wires)

Date created : 2013-11-07

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