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In Germany, Offensive Autocomplete Is No Laughing Matter

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the why-are-IT-people dept.

Google 200

itwbennett writes "We've all had a chuckle over Google's autocomplete results for various search queries. But one German businessman had a less funny experience when he searched for his name on Google.de: The autocomplete suggested search terms where his name was tied with 'Scientology' and 'fraud' (in German, of course). This was back in 2010. In 2012, a German court ruled that the autocomplete terms did not infringe the plaintiff's privacy. Now, a year later, the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe has overturned that ruling and ordered that Google remove offensive search suggestions when notified."

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Good to know (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43724857)

That Freedom of speech in Germany is dead. Mental note...

Re:Good to know (2, Insightful)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724935)

Guess they'll ask to remove Hitler and nazi suggestions.

Godwin's Law hit already. Geeze!

Re:Good to know (3, Informative)

Loether (769074) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725291)

Germany already has many anti nazi laws in place. For example holocaust denial is verboten. Google has removed many neo nazi and old style nazi sites for Germany.

Re:Good to know (1, Troll)

sabri (584428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725417)

Exactly. Once more, this German court has confirmed that Germany has no freedom of speech. Everything that is outside of the realm of what the majority feels is appropriate, is forbidden. Whether that be related to the war, the poor, the economic situation, or prostitution.

Es ist verboten! I'm surprised people haven't applied for political asylum in the U.S. yet. Here, speech has at least some constitutional protection.

Re:Good to know (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725451)

freedom of speech doesn't mean you can say whatever you like, nor does it mean you get an audience.

Re:Good to know (-1, Troll)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725787)

troll much?

Re:Good to know (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725801)

freedom of speech doesn't mean you can say whatever you like

Actually it does, at least in terms of ideas. That's why where freedom of speech is limited in the states, it's not broad but very specific. The idea of fires in theaters, whether in fantasy or theories or reporting on actual fires is not forbidden in the US, just yelling it in cases which can cause a deadly stampede.

Germany otoh, has a free speech clause in it's constitution but has a whole host of illegal ideas, which is the exact opposite of free speech.

Re:Good to know (3, Interesting)

sixsixtysix (1110135) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725945)

Re:Good to know (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726175)

It's a valid comment, and the problem was that he recognized his own slippery slope and used it to support a bad decision.

Yelling fire in a theater is a bad thing. It's the application of that to "show" that passing out a communist flier should be illegal because it's like yelling fire in a theater. Yelling fire in a theater is illegal, so not all speech is always protected. Now that we are in agreement that we don't have "free speech" in the USA. The follow up question is "where do we draw the line?"

Fire in a theater helps us understand this and leads to discussion on it.

Re:Good to know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725803)

freedom of speech doesn't mean you can say whatever you like

Doesn't sound like freedom to me.

Re:Good to know (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725807)

If it has limits, it is not Freedom. I agree with the latter, and I agree that the former is the way that things are done in the majority of the world, but I don't agree that it's right.

Re:Good to know (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43726237)

I dunno, I was pretty sure I had Freedom of Movement, but whenever I walk into other people homes, they get cranky and call police on me. "Freedoom of Movement" is a sham then, I guess

Re:Good to know (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725705)

Exactly. Once more, this German court has confirmed that Germany has no freedom of speech.

Your signature is wrong. You _are_ a complete idiot.

Re:Good to know (-1, Flamebait)

sabri (584428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725865)

Last time I checked, possession of a single book could land you in jail, in Germany.

Freedom of speech does not exist there. And you say *I* am a complete idiot? Sie mussen Deutsch sein.

Re:Good to know (4, Insightful)

he-sk (103163) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725993)

If you're referring to Mein Kampf, you're mistaken. Publishing excerpts of it is prosecuted in civil courts, but only because the Bavarian state claims the copyright. When Hitler killed himself, his estate went to the state, including the publishing rights of that book. The copyright is about to expire after which everybody will be free to print copies in Germany.

On the other hand, distribution and use of some symbols commonly associated with Nazi ideology is a prohibited by the law. If and how much freedom of speech is restricted by these laws is a matter of debate. Certainly, the US is more permissive in this regard, but one should not forget that these laws grew out of denazification regulations instituted by the Allied occupation forces after World War 2.

Re:Good to know (0)

sabri (584428) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726217)

If you're referring to Mein Kampf, you're mistaken. Publishing excerpts of it is prosecuted in civil courts, but only because the Bavarian state claims the copyright. When Hitler killed himself, his estate went to the state, including the publishing rights of that book. The copyright is about to expire after which everybody will be free to print copies in Germany. On the other hand, distribution and use of some symbols commonly associated with Nazi ideology is a prohibited by the law. If and how much freedom of speech is restricted by these laws is a matter of debate. Certainly, the US is more permissive in this regard, but one should not forget that these laws grew out of denazification regulations instituted by the Allied occupation forces after World War 2.

I was indeed referring to Mein Kampf, so in that regard I stand corrected.

The general complaint is still true: in Germany (and most other EU countries), the freedom of speech is generally limited to what the majority finds acceptable. In the U.S. the opposite is true. For example, the idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church can say and protest as much as they want, even though 99.999% of the U.S. population absolutely hates them (that includes me). Whould they have lived in Germany, they would have been in jail a long time ago.

I totally disagree with the Westboro Baptist Church and I despise their opinions and speech. But I will defend their freedom to express themselves so the U.S. will not become the suppressive that Germany already is, in that regard (note the 'in that regard', I'm sure other things are better in .de).

Re:Good to know (-1, Flamebait)

Dishevel (1105119) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725749)

Fuck Germany.
Those gay Nazi bastards.

Re:Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725927)

does arguing the specific number of deaths count as denial?

Re:Good to know (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725771)

What suggestions? The German people were on vacation from 1939 to 1945.

Re:Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725859)

Last time I visited America, I went to the East Coast, to the West Coast, the South, and mid-Western cities.... and I did not see one Native American... what happened to them all?

Re:Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43726013)

Then you're not looking at all. All of the people who do most of the yard, farm, and cleaning work in this country are predominately descendents of South American or Latin American Indians. And I know many many "white" people who have North American Indian ancestory.

Re:Good to know (1)

sethradio (2603921) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726113)

On reservations.

Re:Good to know (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726251)

You saw hundreds, you just thought them Mexican.

Re:Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725127)

Or that freedom from responsibility is not allowed in Germany.

Make a mental note of that as well.

Re:Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725221)

I did a search on Germany. Autocomplete came up with "germany censorship internet". Take it for what it's worth.

Re:Good to know (1)

quantaman (517394) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725253)

That Freedom of speech in Germany is dead. Mental note...

Slander is excepted from free speech in a lot of places. Say your name is "Bob Somelastname" and when you type "Bob Somelastname" into google it autosuggests 'pedophile', are you saying you should have no recourse and that should stay up forever? The court isn't saying google is liable for damages, they're just saying they have to remove the particular suggestions when notified.

Of course Google can't investigate every complaint that comes in, so what this could mean is the German Google won't have slanderous autosuggests for anyone (at least not anyone smart enough to complain) which will reduce its effectiveness but also remove a ton of false positives.

Re:Good to know (2, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725555)

That Freedom of speech in Germany is dead. Mental note...

Slander is excepted from free speech in a lot of places. Say your name is "Bob Somelastname" and when you type "Bob Somelastname" into google it autosuggests 'pedophile', are you saying you should have no recourse and that should stay up forever?

If a lot of people are entering the search query "Bob Somelastname pedophile" then Google autocomplete will add the word "pedophile" whenever someone types "Bob Somelastname". Google is not trying to be offensive, its just an algorithm that is based on the most common searches. This is simply how it is supposed to work.

People really need to shut the fuck up and stop being "offended" by every little thing.

Re:Good to know (1)

quantaman (517394) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725651)

I never claimed it wasn't an algorithm (though I don't know if it's actually that simple) but that doesn't change the fact that people googling that name aren't going to get a pretty ugly suggestion about you.

Are you really telling me you wouldn't get a bit offended if Google autocompleted pedophile onto your name?

Re:Good to know (1)

SJester (1676058) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725871)

More to the point, the lawyer wasn't offended. Who gets offended by a computer? But he was screwed. How could you attract clients if searching for your name (to find a phone number, for example, or a review) instead strongly implied that you frighten sheep and small children?

Re:Good to know (1)

quantaman (517394) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726055)

Work for the RIAA?

Re:Good to know (4, Informative)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726201)

If a lot of people are entering the search query "Bob Somelastname pedophile" then Google autocomplete will add the word "pedophile" whenever someone types "Bob Somelastname". Google is not trying to be offensive, its just an algorithm that is based on the most common searches.

Sorry, but no. Google already filters out LOTS of things, among them many words related to porn and many things Google doesn't like to see connected to its name if you start to type "Google". Nobody knows what else they filter here. Basically Google is redacting its auto-completion heavily already.

If this were indeed a plain algorithm I would tend to agree with you. But it isn't.

Personality rights (3, Insightful)

saibot834 (1061528) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725265)

Freedom of speech is not dead in Germany. The constitution just put a different (higher) weight on personality rights.

In this case, googleing the name "Bettina Wulff" of the first lady would autocomplete to things like "escort" and "prostitute", because some people wrongfully tried to make a past life as a prostitute stick to her public image (which has been shown is just nonsense).

Now, I would agree that it is perfectly reasonable to put a higher weight on the right of free speech. But personality rights, and the right to be protected from libel are also important. Those are two legally protected values that have to be carefully balanced.

Re:Personality rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725637)

I'm not really sure how those suggestions get placed into the recommendations but I imagine it is because it was searched for multiple times or they have results pertaining to it. If someone has a common enough name you should get all kinds of results and suggestions when you start typing that name.

Re:Personality rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725929)

it goes both way; someone hear the rumor that the first lady used to be a prosititute, they decide to check and google auto complete might lead them to a site
that show it is nonsense

Re:Good to know (-1, Flamebait)

crutchy (1949900) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725425)

sieg heil

Re:Good to know (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725545)

It's slightly different. We never actually had that to begin with. Or rather what is called freedeom of speech is defined as "the freedom of opinion and the right to freely express it as such"

This wording excludes libel and slander right from the start (which aren't protected speech in the US either if I remember right)

Re:Good to know (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726091)

This wording excludes libel and slander right from the start (which aren't protected speech in the US either if I remember right)

Libel and slander are civil matters in the US; in Germany, they are criminal matters and potentially carry jail terms. Germany also has jail terms (up to three years) for insulting religions.

Re:Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725707)

That Freedom of speech in Germany is dead. Mental note...

When has it ever been alive? Not in the 19th century, not during the Nazis, and not during the de-Nazification afterwards.

Re:Good to know (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726347)

Well, when you can be put in prison for three years just for saying words of praise about Adolf Hitler, I don't exactly think they had freedom of speech to begin with. It's not the United States, you know... and even here there are exceptions.

Hmm (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724897)

How will this affect my business proposal of adding paid autocomplete suggestions?

You type:
Che

And it autofills with:
Cheeseburgers are delicious at McDonnalds®

Re:Hmm (4, Funny)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724967)

The notion that McDonalds cheeseburgers are delicious is offensive to cheeseburgers everywhere.

So don't do this in Germany.

Re:Hmm (1)

sethradio (2603921) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726159)

Haha

Re:Hmm (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726079)

Then you would be busted for false advertising because the only way a cardboard Mickey D's cheeseburger could be considered delicious would be if you were really really REALLY stoned and have a case of the uber-munches. Of course I have been saying for years this is why Mickey D went to the 24 hour format, so they could get the "stoner has the 3AM munchies" market.

As for TFA, now correct me if I'm wrong, but the way I had always heard it autocomplete is simply trying to "guess" based on what is most popular as far as searches goes, so if i type "Li" into Bing (Yes I use Bing, if they are gonna make money off datamining my searches i want my cut and at least Bing gives me gift cards to Amazon which is damned useful for buying all the little stuff I need at the shop) even though I may be looking for "light bulbs" because Lindsey Lohan was trending thanks to some stupid stoner fuckup then she is what autocomplete is gonna bring up when i type "li" at the top. They also "learn" from your search history, at least Bing does i never checked with Google, so that if I type "AM" it knows I am looking for AM3+ whereas with someone with a different history would get something completely different for the same term.

So I really don't see how the Germans expect this to work short of them just banning autocomplete entirely if you are in Germany which would have to suck for the Germans as it really is a useful feature. Honestly I don't think I have EVER seen an autocomplete that didn't have at least one "offensive term" connected with it,there is even a little hidden joke in the new Spiderman about that as Peter parker is looking up Curt Conners and when he gets to "Curt Co" one of the search results is "curt cockhole" in the autocomplete. Hell its the Internet Germany, have you never heard of rule 34?

South Park was right! (1)

TechieRefugee (2105386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724927)

Sense_of_humor = -German_heritage*x

Re:South Park was right! (2)

TechieRefugee (2105386) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724957)

Actually, that should be: sense_of_humor = -humor_coefficient*german_heritage. I clearly need more caffeine.

Re:South Park was right! (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725395)

Almost there! Try adding 1, so that the maximum value of sense_of_humor isn't 0. I assume german_heritage is already in the range [0,1].

Re:South Park was right! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43726209)

You clearly need to stop being such a nationalist fuck.

Ob (-1, Redundant)

Hognoxious (631665) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724947)

Im Deutshland gibt es keine lachelnstoff!

Yes, same in other countries as well. (2)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year and a half ago | (#43724951)

I seem to recall a case in Australia in the last year where Google was asked to remove offensive autocomplete terms, and didn't. And got sued. And lost.

It's because it's potentially defamatory. And just like I can't write "I saw Soulskill touch a dogs wiener" without potentially being sued, Google can't write that Herr Rolf is a fraud.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725149)

They aren't writing this. It's a system to show what others are searching for. There is a difference. Normally there is intent to do harm and that isn't the case with Google's system.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (4, Insightful)

cgimusic (2788705) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725163)

Google are not writing that though. What they would effectively be writing is "'Herr Rolf is a fraud' is one of the most commonly searched terms in our search engine" which would be pretty easy to prove and hence it is not defamatory.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725755)

Note that the judges did not claim it is defamatory if google's algorithm comes up with some results and their interface offers them. What they say is defamatory if Google is notified that their algorithm produces such results and they add no filter but continue to do so.

The problem is not a algorithm that finds some things. The problem is to continue showing results that are problematic.

Imagine someone writing on your house something like " rapes children" visible from the outside and let's assume the sentence is either not true or cannot be proven. It will usually not be your fault that someone put it there. But if you keep it you will get in problem anyway.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726353)

"Defamatory" means "derogatory". Are you saying that a negative statement isn't negative if it's true? It may not be actionable, but it is still negative.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725275)

And just like I can't write "I saw Soulskill touch a dogs wiener" without potentially being sued, Google can't write that Herr Rolf is a fraud.

Who's that Mr. Google and where he lives? I'd like to shake his hand for many a useful autocompletes he wrote for (And some defamatory. Why would he even write that?)

Seriously, tho, Google doesn't "write that Herr Rolf is a fraud". Algorithm fills in autocompletions based on other searches and contents of pages. If it suggests something, it's because people are searching for it and it appears in the database. "We here at Google know people are searching for 'maverick's confused at google's workings'" and "We here at Google know that maverick's confused at google's workings" is two different things.

Potential for abuse... (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725375)

I can see this abused by organizations and individuals who have perpetrated frauds on people or who have acted in other devious and underhanded ways to make it more difficult to find sites that expose their activities (ie Scientology mind control, fraud, etc)

All they would have to do was to point to some civil suit that they had against the people making the alleged false claims to 'prove' that they were fighting these baseless accusations and that the results should be removed from autocomplete

I can see this also requiring rooms full of lawyers testing google searches to look for potential infringements.

the thing that comes to my mind is anytime I see a questionable website in an email or webpost I run it through google and it often suggests 'malware', 'virus' or 'trojan' which might offend someone who was selling some piece of crap like 'speedupmypc' or something

-I'm just sayin'

Potential to fight abuse actually (2)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725635)

This is not about search terms or search hits but just about autocomplete. It's not about hiding what you did, but about not slapping people looking for you or your company into the face with terms that come solely from other people searching for something (and maybe even not finding anything).

I mean, if I start to type your name into Google and Google suggests completions of "sells drugs to minors" just because people search for this in connection with your name (or someone else with the same name) you wouldn't be happy either.

Besides: Google already IS redacting autocompletion heavily. It weeds out completions reeking of sex, of anything negative about Google itself... By doing this the completions become an edited publication and Google is responsible for what it "publishes" here.

It's much more about rights (of affected individuals) than about anything else. I don't think there's anything wrong with this. There's nobody else beside Google you can turn to to get this "publication" corrected or to sue (in case of libel), because it's Google who's publishing rumours here.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725467)

It isn't potentially defamatory. An algorithm can't defame somebody unless the designer intentionally designed it to defame. Defamation is intentional, which is why it is a crime in some places. There is no such thing as "potential" or "unintentional" defamation. If I search for "obama" and get the autocomplete of "obama hates jews", then Google hasn't defamed Obama. Only the people who are actually writing about Obama hating Jews are defaming him.

Re:Yes, same in other countries as well. (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726333)

""just like I can... write "I saw Soulskill touch a dogs wiener" ""

You saw it too? We should tell Google. And Germany.

Dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43724975)

Everything is offensive to someone.

For example... This ruling by the federal court of justice in karlsruhe offends me. Who do i complain to about that?

Re: Dumb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725039)

Anarchists.

So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (1)

InvalidError (771317) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725069)

How else would Autocomplete know what is offensive (or not) to you?

Since what constitutes "offensive" material varies wildly from person to person and also depending on the reason/motives people have to do any particular search, I doubt there is any way for autocomplete to comply.

I bet the plaintiff would consider my post defending autocomplete's cluenessless offensive.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (5, Insightful)

Aristos Mazer (181252) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725177)

I think that's why the court required the "when notified" part. I don't agree, but at least it is feasible to implement.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725257)

I have a dictionary online.

I have perl.

What's the API for the "notify Google of offensive autocomplete words"?

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (3, Informative)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725733)

I have a dictionary online.

I have perl.

What's the API for the "notify Google of offensive autocomplete words"?

You don't get this. It's not about "offensive words" but about connecting YOU to things you have nothing to do with just by suggesting completions others have searched for.

So the API is: Type your name into the Google search field and if you get completions that would be libel if published as a headline with your name in it in a newspaper, notify Google as you would notify the newspaper. It's not about search hits or things said on other sites Google just indexed. It's about what Google publishes about YOUR name in the completions and your rights.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (0)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726119)

You don't get this.

You're the one who isn't getting it. I know where the "problem" originated. I'm pointing out that it is quite possible that some people will find the "autocomplete" suggestions offensive no matter what they are, and you might as well point this out to Google by notifying them about every possible word. The implication, which I'll spell out for the slow ones, is that I would write a perl script that would go through the online dictionary and submit every word as offensive.

So the API is: Type your name into the Google search field

That's not the API I asked for, so you really don't get it at all.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (2)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726345)

You're the one who isn't getting it. I know where the "problem" originated. I'm pointing out that it is quite possible that some people will find the "autocomplete" suggestions offensive no matter what they are, and you might as well point this out to Google by notifying them about every possible word. The implication, which I'll spell out for the slow ones, is that I would write a perl script that would go through the online dictionary and submit every word as offensive.

You mean like any house owner in Germany could just request his house in Street View to be blanked out?

And of course you would need to point at a specific completion to your name to have it removed. Submitting a wordlist won't do. Even if you would do this it would just mean that your name wouldn't complete to anything. Hardly catastrophic.

And Google does this already anyway, just not for your name but for Google's name and for many porn-related things and who knows what else. People search for a lot of things you'll never see as a auto-completion. And if Google is redacting the completions it is responsible for what it publishes by doing this.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (1)

wile_e8 (958263) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725489)

The problem is preventing abuse of this implementation. How soon until companies are notifying Google that they are offended because they don't like what autocomplete is associating with their product? For example, right now when I enter "iphone" in the Google search bar, one of the autocomplete options is "jailbreak". What if Apple notifies Google that they are offended by that? I think it would get even worse when products have negative reviews or make negative news.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725207)

Just don't mention the war... or gassing of jews... or concentration camps... and all is rosey in Germany.

Re: So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725737)

They don't want to be reminded that they could have prevented the bank scandals.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725741)

It's rather the opposite - you should mention it when relevant. What's verboten is to deny it, or use nazi symbols or slogans.

It seems to work somewhat too - while there still are individuals who preach hatred, there have been no organized atrocities against minorities in Germany after the war, unlike some other countries (better not named not to start a flamewar).

No, it doesn't need to read your mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725535)

As explained in TFS, Google is required to remove offensive autocompletes when notified. This is pretty much how copyright violations work. No mind reading necessary. The offended parties have to tell Google that they are offended in order to trigger a removal.

There may be some reason to argue that notifications will be overused. For example, GM might find an autocomplete of "Ford Rules" to be offensive, even though it doesn't mention GM. That's a legitimate concern. In the US, it might be enough of a concern to keep this from occurring. In Germany, the slander and free speech laws are different.

I'm still curious as to why the autocompletes were happening this way. Is the plaintiff a fraudulent Scientologist? Does he have the same name as someone who is? Some other reason?

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (3, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725767)

Since what constitutes "offensive" material varies wildly from person to person and also depending on the reason/motives people have to do any particular search

If I start searching for "muslim teachings" Google will offer me "muslim terrorist" as soon as I type the first "t".

How long will that hold up if google is held liable for what it's autocomplete algorithm does.

German courts have their heads up their asses on this one. Autocomplete is nothing more than a basic statistical lookup. Germany is basically making the use of statistics a thought crime.

Re:So autocomplete is supposed to read your mind? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726051)

Since what constitutes "offensive" material varies wildly from person to person and also depending on the reason/motives people have to do any particular search, I doubt there is any way for autocomplete to comply.

That's why we have a lot of objective*, if necessarily somewhat arbitrary, laws, and courts to mete out punishment when someone breaks them. It wouldn't really work if you had one party claiming they'd been wronged by their own standards and the other party just disagreeing and being done with it.

*that's the idea, anyway, but lawyers have to put food on the table somehow.

I bet the plaintiff would consider my post defending autocomplete's cluenessless offensive.

Offensive to him, perhaps - but he certainly wouldn't get very far claiming it was defamation, which is what he's claiming of autocomplete, and is a different thing.

Seems fair (2)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725225)

I think that's fair. I have a software product that used to auto complete with "torrent" and "crack". Made me a little miffed. Eventually google stopped doing that.

Re:Seems fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725303)

What if one of your competitors became offended when auto complete results list yours higher and has your product removed all together? Is that far? Their feelings were hurt after all.

In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (3, Insightful)

Koreantoast (527520) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725229)

I'm curious how German law determines what is an "offensive" search. If there's a legal definition, then maybe you can work something, but if "offensive" is determined by the "offended", then Google might as well disable the entire feature as anyone who doesn't like the autocomplete result for their name or term begin banning just about every potentially offensive combination out there.

Re:In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725615)

I'm curious how German law determines what is an "offensive" search.

It doesn't. Germany has civil law, not common law.
Courts decide on a case-by-case basis whether the living law was broken, and a court has no authority to determine how it is to be interpreted, unlike in common law.

Re:In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (3, Interesting)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725621)

Standards are pretty low. Calling an airline pilot a "bus driver", calling a store a "fraud" in a review (even if you obviously don't mean it literally), flipping someone off, or using someone's first name if you haven't been introduced are all criminal offenses with prison sentences of up to 1-2 years. True statements can also be criminal offenses.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beleidigung_(Deutschland) [wikipedia.org]

Flipping someone off behind the wheel generally costs upward of $4000 in penalties, a milder gesture around $1000. Just about anything negative you say to a policeman will get you charged and convicted in Germany.

Re:In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725799)

yeah, offensive speech is a whole industry in germany. Its business volume is close to silly walking.

Re:In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43726229)

Not sure whether you're trying to be funny or not, but people regularly get hit with steep fines for flipping someone off in Germany. And doing it to a policeman is almost certain to get you charged and fined. It's not an "industry", it's what the German government does, all in the name of public order.

Far worse than those mere annoyances is the prior restraint on speech in politics. People are dancing around on eggshells in German politics and people are not saying what they think, because if they did, they'd get sued.

Re:In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43726343)

Germany was a much more fun place when they were throwing faggots into the ovens.

Google does this already (1)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725815)

I'm curious how German law determines what is an "offensive" search. If there's a legal definition, then maybe you can work something, but if "offensive" is determined by the "offended", then Google might as well disable the entire feature as anyone who doesn't like the autocomplete result for their name or term begin banning just about every potentially offensive combination out there.

Google avoids lots of completions already. You won't get completions about many things that Google deems to be offensive, like sexual terms (even porn actors) or negative things about Google. Google does this fairly arbitrarily with no documented rules or anything. It's not that adding something to a blacklist if someone requests this in connection with his name would be anything major to this. In fact it would just give you some rights that Google assumes for itself as a matter of course.

Note that in Germany Google also was required to blank out houses in street view in Google Maps if the owner requested this.

Re:In Germany, Who Determines "Offensive"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43726025)

I'm sure it depends on who you are, I doubt it took time in court to make google write this: http://www.google.com/explanation.html

When I search for Deutschland (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725239)

The first autocomplete is "Deutschland über alles!"
Now that's offensive.

When I search for "Google" (0)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725991)

I won't get many things Google doesn't like me to see in the auto-completion. Google is already customizing and filtering completions heavily and many things people search for are not listed there.

I would agree that if this were purely mechanical (list the most common searches that start with what you type) things might look different (and you would get porn-related completions for just about everything). But by redacting the completions Google becomes the publisher and not just a search engine. If Google sees the need of filtering out things it doesn't like to see connected to its name as an auto-completion it has to do this for names of others too if they request it with good reasons.

I find it interesting that there are people who rally for Google assuming rights Google is denying others. This is "Google über alles".

Truth is fair defense against libel charges. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725255)

"Did you know that Pat Buchanan is so racist, that if you google him it says: Did you mean Pat Buchanan racist?" -W Kamau Bell

It's all relative (1)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725297)

The Germany loves David Hasselhoff.

You think THAT'S bad...? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725329)

...you should see what it does when I Google my name...!

Sincerely,

Harry Fagina

inoffensive in all possible languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725391)

Is there an empirical study of the probability of any autocomplete being offensitve in some language?

How high would that have to be before Google's autocomplete is infeasible because of the costs of removing the terms?

Re:inoffensive in all possible languages (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725625)

Is there an empirical study of the probability of any autocomplete being offensitve in some language?

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess 'no,' based on the simple observation that "being offensive" is purely subjective, and thus diametrically opposed to empirical data.

Re:inoffensive in all possible languages (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725691)

Alright, well, maybe not diametrically opposed - I suppose you could create a dataset based on the opinions of what all speakers of a particular language consider offensive, cull the list down to just the terms that all surveyed name as offensive, then compare it against a list of existing autocompletion terms... But damn, what a stupid waste of fucking time that would be!

A better plan: Let's all join together and decide, conclusively, that:

A) No one has a right to be offended, and

B) No harm == no foul

Seems a lot more practical.

What if (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725597)

What if Google just removes auto complete for everyone in Germany? 'cause how are they supposed to know what someone may find offensive?

Re:What if (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725843)

Great idea. I hope they do that where I live as well.

Re:What if (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43725857)

'cause how are they supposed to know what someone may find offensive?

The don't have to. They merely have to remove suggestions that are reported to them as offensive. The potential for abuse notwithstanding, it should be trivial for Google to adhere to this requirement.

Re:What if (1)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726075)

They are supposed to know it by people with the name completing to something that borders on libel telling them about it.

This is getting ridiculus (1)

kawabago (551139) | about a year and a half ago | (#43725937)

For all the help auto complete is, I'd be quite happy to lose it entirely. On the other hand, auto complete should be different on each user's machine because the users past searches influence the results shown. Also, other users may want to see the results this user complains of. In a world with so many people having the same name, trying to control your name bumps up against the rights of everyone else that has the same name. People have to accept that auto complete is not an information source in itself. To suggest it is result's in silliness like this.

Re:This is getting ridiculus (1)

joh (27088) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726095)

So tell Google not to customize completions for "Google". And to not filter out anything related to porn. And probably lots of other things Google will never tell you about.

Is Gay website (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year and a half ago | (#43726103)

There was once a website that was called isgay.com basically what you did was put in a sub-domain such as Billy-Bob.isgay.com and it would then take you to a newspaper style article that went on and on about how gay billy-bob was. Needless to say it was autogenerated from the sub-domain that you entered. The best part of the website was a section listing their hate-mail. Basically it consisted of "I HAVE CONTACTED THE INTERNET POLICE....blah blah." I think some of their haters were crying when writing it thinking that they had been outed.

All this guy has basically done is to engage the classic Streisand effect (I wonder if she is angry at her name becoming a meme for stupid on the internet) and now the 99% of Germans who didn't associate his name to Scientology now will.
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