Is Google to blame if its search results give you a bad name? An Argentine model, Maria Belen Rodriguez, is currently suing both Yahoo and search engine giant Google over search results that link her name to pornographic online sites and escort services.The adult websites are using older images of Rodriguez without her permission.
Although she was awarded a reduced sum of $6,200 in an earlier legal action suit back in 2006, the TV personality is seeking further damages owing to ongoing emotional distress, and so that her name can be unlinked to the websites once and for all.
In an interview with CNN, Rodriguez is critical of those who would dismiss her claim because of free speech rights. “They have ruined my life and now say that what I’m asking for is censorship? It suits them, but not me,” she says of Yahoo and Google’s search results. “For me, having to explain every day that I am not a prostitute is a daily complication.”
According to Rodriguez, after eight years of having her name associated with pornographic sites, the links have damaged her reputation. She seeks compensatory damages, according to her lawyers, who point out that Rodriguez is a mother and that this decision will impact her family as well.
Google has replied publicly to the suit, saying in a released statement that, “Search engines are neutral platforms that do not create or control content on the web,” and that Rodriguez should be suing the websites responsible, not Google itself. Several Argentine civil rights groups have been inclined to agree with Google so far.
“In this instance, I don’t believe that Google and Yahoo should be held responsible for Maria Rodriguez’s claims against them,” says Natasha Merrick, Vice President of S&S Pro Services. “If Internet search results are censored, it will become difficult to find relevant and reliable information. Instead, I think that the sites that are generating the content should be the subjects of the Argentine model’s lawsuit.”