Google sued in Germany over defamatory search results

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Google sued in Germany over defamatory search results

Auto-smears via auto-complete.

The wife of former German president Christian Wulff has begun suing Google for defamation over search results, alleging the search engine's auto-complete function added words like "prostitute" and "escort" after her name.

Google has reportedly refused to comply with requests to remove the auto-completion terms added to searches for Bettina Wulff's name, claiming they are simply the result of an algorithm.

However, German news site Der Spiegel accused Google of double standards, arguing the seaech giant was happy to block such search terms in response to lobbying from powerful companies or the company's own requirements.

"When it comes to individual people, Google unscrupulously links users to websites that violate their personal rights," Der Spiegel wrote.

Wulff has been the target of a long-running smear campaign in Germany as part of an effort to discredit her husband. She has already sued media outlets and issued cease and desist orders to 34 organisations to stop rumours of her alleged past as a prostitute spreading, according to German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

According to SD, Wulff has submitted a sworn declaration that she has not worked as a prostitute or escort in the past, but quelling the rumours floating around on the internet has remained a difficult task.

Christian Wulff resigned from the presidency in February following media reports of corruption during his time as premier of the German state Lower Saxony.

Google has been in court in Europe over its search results before. In June this year, it reached a deal under legal mediation with anti-racism groups in France, as searches suggested the word "Jew" after the names of celebrities and politicians such as the country's president, Francois Hollande.

French law makes it illegal to record anyone's ethnicity in databases. As a result of the deal, the groups dropped a law suit against Google.

Google was also fined $US65,000 ($A62,886) in January this year by a French court, as its auto-complete function added the word "crook" after the name of insurance company Lyonnaise de Garantie.

The search engine giant was ordered to remove the term, "escroc" in French, from searches related to the insurance company.

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