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French court orders Google to block sex party photos of former FIA boss Max Mosley

French court orders Google to block sex party photos of former FIA boss Max Mosley

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Max Mosley has emerged victorious in his quest to have Google prevent scandalous images of the former FIA president from appearing in search results. A Paris court has ordered Google to automatically filter out nine pictures originally taken at a role-play sex party five years ago and later publicized by British tabloids. The photos quickly proved to be a headache for Mosley, with News of the World describing the gathering as a "sick Nazi orgy." A UK court awarded Mosley a large settlement, ruling that News Corp and its now-defunct paper had violated his privacy. Mosley wasted little time taking Google to court on the matter, demanding that the search giant find some way to automatically filter the images and keep them hidden from public search queries.

Apparently responding to takedown requests isn't good enough

"We sympathize with Mr. Mosley, and with anyone who believes their rights have been violated," Google said at the time. "But the law does not support Mr. Mosley’s demand for the construction of an unprecedented new internet censorship tool." Google warned that should Mosley prevail in the suit, "any startup could face the same daunting and expensive obligation to build new censorship tools — despite the harm to users’ fundamental rights and the ineffectiveness of such measures."

With today's defeat, Google is already painting the court's decision as a grave misstep that threatens internet freedom. Daphne Keller, associate general counsel at Google, tells Reuters: “This decision should worry those who champion the cause of freedom of expression on the internet." Keller went on, saying: "Even though we already provide a fast and effective way of removing unlawful material from our search index, the French court has instructed us to build what we believe amounts to a censorship machine." Google has long maintained that it should not be held legally responsible for items that appear in its search results. It has also rejected calls to automatically police search, maintaining that responsibility ultimately rests with those responsible for creating a given piece of content.

Correction: This article originally referred to Max Mosley as the "former Formula One boss." He is in fact the former president of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Formula One's governing body.