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24.11.14

Landmark trolling case against Google settles on eve of trial

The eagerly anticipated case of Hegglin v Person(s) Unknown and Google Inc has settled the day before it was due to come to trial (24 November 2014).  Mr Hegglin, a former Morgan Stanley banker, had issued proceedings following a sustained campaign of internet abuse against him by an anonymous troll.

Thousands of abusive and offensive articles were published by the troll referring to Mr Hegglin as murderer and paedophile, amongst other things.  Many of the articles featured prominently on a Google search for Mr Hegglin.  Mr Hegglin included Google as a defendant as he felt the company was not doing enough to prevent the trolling.

The trial would have likely determined to what extent, if any, Google was expected to proactively police search engine results.

Details of the settlement have not been disclosed, but in court Hugh Tomlinson QC told Mr Justice Jay:-

"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."

Anthony White QC appearing for Google said that whilst the company had considerable sympathy for Mr Hegglin "...it provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content."

With the matter having settled, no binding decision on the important issues concerning Google's liability has been made.

Click here for our report on the interim decision of Mr Justice Bean in this case.


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