The Supreme Court of Cassation rejected the appeal brought by Google against the first judge’s ruling, by which it had been ordered to de-index certain defamatory URLs from the plaintiff’s searches and to pay damages.
The plaintiff – a victim of the crime of defamation by a colleague who had published a series of web pages with untruthful content – in order to stem the serious damage inflicted on his online reputation, in December 2017 he turned to the lawyers Angelica Parente and Domenico Bianculli, to ask Google to remove the defamatory news from the search indexes related to his name, pursuant to European privacy laws. The Google team, however, rejected the request, reasoning that the news for which removal was requested was of substantial public interest, since it concerned the applicant’s professional life.
The request having failed, Lawyers Parente and Bianculli submitted the matter to the Civil Court of Milan. At the end of the proceedings, the Court upheld the applicant’s arguments and assessed the damages on an equitable basis, also taking into account the refusal of the respondent to the request for removal of the content and the resulting injuries.
Google appealed to the Court of Legitimacy, but the Court of Cassation rejected the appeal, declaring the grounds put forward by the American giant to be inadmissible and unfounded. In particular, the Court of Cassation recalled how Google, although it is a hosting service provider hosting information published by third parties, becomes “liable with respect to the content of the information when a) it is actually aware that the activity or information is unlawful and, as regards actions for damages, it is aware of facts or circumstances that make the unlawfulness of the activity or information manifest; or (b) he does not act immediately to remove the information or to disable access to it as soon as he becomes aware of such facts, upon notice from the competent authorities”.
Commenting, together with our press office, on the judgment, Lawyers Angelica Parente and Domenico Bianculli underlined how “the damage in the presence of an injury to very personal rights, such as those invoked by our patron, is by definition a damage that cannot be proven in its exact amount […] as it pertains to the compensation of the prejudice represented by inner suffering, or moral damage (sub specie of pain of the soul, shame, self-loathing, fear, despair)”.
This ruling by the Court of Cassation reaffirms the principle that “Google is responsible for the content it hosts in the search results whenever it becomes aware of its unlawfulness”, the lawyers conclude, recalling also how the Court has affirmed “the principle according to which the request for de-indexing, for the purposes of its determinateness, does not necessarily have to contain the precise identification of the telematic addresses (or urls), but, depending on the circumstances, a precise representation of the individual pieces of information associated with the search keywords is sufficient, which are in any event capable of giving an account of the subject matter of the application”.
The Law Firm Parente & Bianculli & Associates
The Law Firm Parente & Bianculli & Associati is based in Rome and Milan. It offers its services in the legal world and has experience in the protection of very personal rights, in actions against illegitimate measures of public administrations and in the assertion of the right to claim compensation for damages.