Supreme Court rules on benchmark search engine case
On October 28 2014, Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of Google and Yahoo by rejecting complaints against the search engines in what is recognized as a leading case.
The court action was initiated in 2006 by former model Maria Belen Rodriquez whose images appeared in porn and sex offers. The first ruling was in favor of Ms. Rodriquez, and was soon appealed. The court of appeal analyzed the case and considered that Yahoo and Google were responsible only if they had “actual knowledge” of the illegality of the content they had not blocked.
Once again, the resolution was challenged and as a result was brought to the Supreme Court. In May 2014, two public hearings were held in which legal arguments from both parties were considered.
One of the reasons that this case has become so important is that it deals with the new conflicts arising from worldwide internet use and the right to one’s personal image.
The issue of responsibility of online search engines (regarding the content that is available in the internet) has brought lively debates among the specialist in this field. There is a conflict between constitutional rights, such as freedom of expression and the right of information.
The Supreme Court considered as fundamental the role that search engines have in relation to the right of freedom of speech as well as the right to free access to information. Furthermore, the Court dismissed the application of strict liability to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), considering that they do not generate or control the content available on the internet. In addition, the judges considered that it is not a duty of the search engines to control or supervise the legality of the contents of the websites.
With this benchmark case, an important first principle regarding the responsibility of the search engines has been defined. The court considers that only after the engines have actual knowledge (occurring after an express notification) of a clear illegal content could they be assigned responsibility in cases where they do not remove it.