France: Google sent again to court for its search suggestion service

By EDRi · May 9, 2012

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Frankreich: Google neuerlich wegen Suggest-Funktion vor Gericht |]

Four French associations have decided to take Google to court for its
automatic suggestion of the word “Jew” when searching for the names of
several French personalities.

Union des étudiants juifs de France (UEJF – union of Jew students of
France), J’accuse!-action internationale pour la justice (AIPJ-
international action for justice), SOS Racisme and Mouvement contre le
rasisme et pour l’amitie entre les peoples (MRAP- the movement against
racism and for the friendship between peoples) consider that Google’s
feature (called Google Suggest) that suggests the association of the
word “Jew” with personalities users look for, may lead to the creation
of probably the largest Jew file in history.

The associations complain about the fact that the image of an
omnipresence of Jews leading France is thus largely shared and
amplified. According to them, by this association, Google infringes the
law preventing the creation of ethnical files. Therefore, based on
article L226-19 of the Penal Code they ask the court to forbid Google
“to store or keep as information memory, without the consent of the
people involved, the personal data which, directly or indirectly, make
the racial or ethnical origin appear” and to forbid the association of
the word “Jew” with the names of natural people occurring in Internet
users’ searches.

The Penal Code stipulates a penalty of 5 years of imprisonment and
300 000 Euro fine for the creation of such files. On the other hand, the
French Constitution says that the Republic “assures the equality before
the law of all citizens, irrespective of their origin, race or religion”.

This is not the first time the company is criticised over its Google
Suggests service. In 2010 and 2011, Google France was condemned because
its algorithms suggested expressions considered defamatory or injurious.
But those cases were specific to a certain search or name, and not to
the same keyword being used in various searches.

Google is presently limiting the range of the automatic suggestions by applying strict rules on pornographic, violent or hate inciting content and some terms apparently used to search for content that may infringe copyrights (such as “bittorent”). The measure, which is not detailed in a clear policy, has been heavily criticised for being actually a method to censor the results.

During the hearing that took place on 2 May, the analysis of the
automatic word suggestions was delayed for 23 May in order to give the
associations the time to examine Google’s arguments in the matter.

Google investigated for the suggestions of its search engine (only in
French, 28.04.2012)

Google investigated for the term “Jew” associated to personalities (only
in French, up-dated 2.05.2012)