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'Defamation by auto-complete' case resolved out of court

The High Court hears that a defamation claim by the owners of Ballymascanlon House Hotel has been withdrawn and resolved.

THE HIGH COURT has been told that a defamation case taken by the owners of a Co Louth hotel – who claimed Google had allowed the hotel to be defamed in its ‘auto-complete’ tool – has been withdrawn.

Oliver Quinn Sr, Oliver Quinn Jr and Niall Quinn, and Ballymascanlon Holdings Ltd – all representing the Ballymascanlon House Hotel in Co Louth – had initiated defamation proceedings against the search engine over the appearance of the word ‘receivership’ as a suggested search query.

They claimed that Google had defamed the business by allowing the word to appear as a suggested term – saying the business would appear to be in some kind of financial trouble, when no such problems had arisen.

The action had originally been taken against Google’s Irish holding company, Google Ireland Ltd, with the Californian-based Google Inc – which actually runs and manages the search function on the site – later added as a co-defendant.

Yesterday, when the High Court was to decide on whether to transfer the case to the Commercial Court, Justice Peter Kelly was told the case had been resolved.

While no terms of settlement were disclosed, understands that a payment was not agreed, nor did Google agreed to remove any of the terms mentioned in the case.

In a statement, Google said it was “pleased this case has been withdrawn”, and that the auto-complete suggestions were produced and updated through objective factors including the popularity of search terms.

“Google does not manually select these terms, and all of the millions of queries shown in Autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users,” it said.

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