Posts Tagged 'freedom of speech'

*Impact of National Court Decisions Onto Search Engines

IDue to the fact we kind of grew up with the web and its search engines it is difficult how some things could be different from the way the web is now.

Thanks to the input of Austrotrabant’s reader Pablo A. Palazzi, editor of the Blog Delitos Informaticos I’d like to present how search engines look in Argentina: Partly censored and some searches are displayed without ads [sic!].


About censorship in Argentina:

copied from searchengineland.com

For more information about this issue please refer to Searchengineland or the OpenNet Initiativ or TechDirt.


About Image Search Results without Ads:

When searching for “nintendo wii” on Google in Argentina you will see an “ordinary” Google SERP, including Top- and Side-Ads.

Google Argentina Web Search Screen Shot

Please note that no ads are however displayed next to the Image Search results:

Google Image Searches in Argentina

Anyone able to come up with a good explanation for that?

*”Explanatory Ads” by Google

Users searching for “Michelle Obama” on Google Images will see as the first result a offensive/racist picture in which the face of the president’s wife got overlaid with the face of a monkey. [red circle] The image stems from a (Chinese) blog. The picture later got removed from the blog alongside with an apology in Chinese and English.

What makes the issue interesting however is the ad shown above the search result. [purple rectangle]

Google Image Search by Austrotrabant, not showing the original blog entry

The Top-ad reads: “Offensive Search Result, Sometimes our search results can be offensive. We agree. Read more“.


Clicking onto the link leads to a website that states:

The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results. Individual citizens and public interest groups do periodically urge us to remove particular links or otherwise adjust search results. Although Google reserves the right to address such requests individually, Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.

[emphasis added by austrotrabant]


However, showing an offensive photo of Michelle Obama doesn’t, according to Matt McGee, violate any of those three guidelines on its own. The blog however got removed/delisted out of Google’s index for another reason: providing male-ware. Searchengineland reported that the blog actually DID contain male-ware and the  removal was thus justified.

This is however not the first time that Google has used ads to explain/justify its search results. the Guardian reports that in 2004 when searches for the word “Jew” returned antisemitic website results Google responded with a similar approach.

*Does Google AdWord’s Trademark Policy impair Freedom of Speech?

Joris van Hoboken posted the link to a CNet article by Chris Soghoian which describes how the AdWord’s trademark policy stopped displaying ads on Google in which informed users, who searched on Google for Brandt Hershman, a  state senator in Indiana, that this senator had received money from a well known brand (AT&T). Soghojan obviously dislikes Hershman and searched for a way to communicate to the public that the senator had received money from corporations (there are public lists about that issue in the US) which might have influenced him in his decisions…etc. Fair enough!

Picture 2

Sample Side-Ad created by Austrotrabant

Two more examples:

  • A labor rights group that wished to place an ad stating that “Wal-Mart [let's say "Schlecker" here] forbids its employees from unionizing,” whenever someone searched for the phrase “minimum wage.”
  • A public-interest group that wished to place an ad stating that “The RIAA [let's say Sony Music, AKM, AUSTROMECHANA, etc.] has filed over 30,000 lawsuits against Internet users, many of whom were children, elderly, or even dead,” whenever a Google user searched for the words “file sharing.”

When reading the article I was wondering what the situation would be like in Austria for such a case… I haven’t reached a conclusion yet… but I really think that is an interesting idea especially as Google AdWords is a private entity and thus under no obligation to enter into a contract with me. Secondly I’ve invested 99,9% of all my research time thinking “into the other direction”, (trademark law, law of unfair competition) so that I find this view onto things really, really interesting.

*Austrian Supreme Court allows “derogatory” Second Level Domains

Picture 2The Austrian Supreme Court (OGH 24.2.2009, 17 Ob 2/09g -Aquapol-unzufriedene-) issued a decision on the 24th of February 2009 which allowed an dissatisfied customer of an “alternative wall-drying-method” (utilizing a “gravomagnetic” energy to force moisture out of brickwork, please see picture no. 1) to have its website under a SecondLevelDomain (http://www.aquapol-unzufriedene.at) which consist out of the trade name of the company (“Aquapol“) and out of the German word for “unsatisfied” (“unzufriedene“). On his website the customer runs a form on which people can post their experiences with the company and their methods.

Picture 1

Picture 1

The court found that the customer had clearly not “used” the trade name (“Firmenschlagwort“) as it was not used to refer to the origin of the service and furthermore there was no likeliness of confusion as it was obvious for the court that the customer’s website was not the website of the trade name owner.

Civil protection § 43 of the Austrian Civil Code (ABGB) was refused as the court found that using the trade name of the company was the only way for the customer to make express his opinion (freedom of speech) and that such a usage should not be treated differently than critical statements in book-titles or headlines of newspaper-articles.

The LG Düsseldorf (30.01.2002, 2a O 245/01 “scheiss-t-online”) in a similar case decided in 2002 against the defendant as his website was registered under the domain “scheiss-t-online” and only contained critical texts about the German telecommunications company T-mobile. the OLG found a trademark infringement as the Domain-name was found compromising under § 14 (2) Z.3 dMarkenG.

The defendant (customer) also uploaded a scan of the judgement. If you’ve never seen a Austrian court decision this pdf might be worth a look. Very, very  authentic ;)

[Update: If you feel the need to gripe about a TM owner's service practices you'll find a nice guide here.]


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