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Google settles online abuse case

Google has settled a case of online abuse involving an international businessman and is taking action to remove the offensive material.

The businessman, Daniel Hegglin, brought Google to court because of the nature of the results appearing in the search engine when a user would search for his name.

In some of the results Hegglin was accused of being a murderer, paedophile or sympathiser of the Ku Klux Klan.

The businessman said he first noticed that the content was starting to appear across the net in 2011. It has since that time grown to over 3,600 websites, in what Hegglin’s lawyers described as an act of extreme internet trolling.

In this context, an internet troll is an individual or group of individuals who irritate, attack or harass others online for pleasure.

Was it right to be forgotten?

The case has arisen at a time when many are aware of the issues surrounding the of the EU court ruling over the right to be forgotten. However, BBC correspondent Clive Coleman points to the distinction between these issues and the present case:

“This was not a case about the so-called right to be forgotten where people are allowed to request that Google takes down information about them from the past that is perhaps embarrassing.”

Instead, the present case dealt with an individual “posting false statements about Mr Hegglin.”

At court, Hegglin’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson, said the case didn’t fall under the right to be forgotten and was about “the circulation of abusive material.”

The settlement, for which the full details were not disclosed, was announced at the High Court in London on Monday. Tomlinson said:

“The settlement includes significant efforts on Google’s part to remove the abusive material from Google-hosted websites and from its search results. Mr Hegglin will now concentrate his energies on bringing the person responsible for this campaign of harassment to justice.”

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