Google has said it can only de-list antisemitic material from search results if a judge orders it to, after lawyers in Spain began proceedings.
In June the tech giant was asked to remove offensive content from its Blogger platform, which it owns, and to de-list content from its search engine results, which simply reflect the web. It was able to fulfil the former but not the latter.
Lawyers acting for a Spanish Jewish complainant this week said: “The content was so obviously extremely racist that it could have been easily addressed as unprotected speech without the need for any outside corroboration, not only in Spain, but across most European jurisdictions.”
Google said it was more able to remove content from platforms it owns, such as YouTube, because it need only fall foul of the company’s own content guidelines, but to de-list search results the content must be deemed illegal by a judge.
The Spanish legal action, which alleges libel against the Jewish people, is being funded by advocates at the US-based Lawfare Project, who earlier this year fought Kuwait Airlines in the German courts.
In response to their latest legal outing, a Google spokeswoman said the company finds the presence of hateful and antisemitic content online “abhorrent” but denied Lawfare Project’s claim that it had “done nothing”.
She added: “We must be guided by proper legal process in what we remove from Search because we believe courts – not companies – should decide what content should legally be able to be found in search engines.”
The company, which is routinely attacked by politicians on this issue, has repeatedly said the presence of content in search results is not an indication of endorsement, and argues that tech firms are not best-placed to judge what is or isn’t illegal, or what should legally be able to be found in search engines.
“We always aim to show useful, authoritative content in response to search queries, and for searches that may be prone to problematic content, we’re working hard on improvements to ensure we show authoritative, better quality results,” she said.
Filing their lawsuit in Ibiza, the complainant said they came across “extreme racism against Jewish people” after carrying out a Google search in Spanish using the search terms “Holocaust” and “truth.”
The results included content labelling Jews as “degenerate” and the embodiment of evil and can be traced to a Nazi website with a sizable following across the Spanish speaking world, not only in Spain but across South America. The website makes clear its connections to the notorious US Nazi website, the Daily Stormer, providing details of how to access it on the Dark Web.