Google Argentina, Yahoo Argentina
Natacha Pisarenko/AP
Diego Maradona

Google and Yahoo in Battle over Internet Search Freedom in Argentina

November 17, 2008 12:03 PM
by Josh Katz
Soccer icon Diego Maradona joins the ranks of models and public officials to have Internet search companies in Argentina censor results of their names.

Soccer Star Wants Search Results Blocked

Google and Yahoo are currently embroiled in an Argentinean legal dispute over the censorship of Internet searches. Buenos Aires attorney Martin Leguizamon represents a number of clients, including the country’s soccer legend Diego Maradona, in a battle with the Internet companies.

Leguizamon argues that the search engines are providing access to false information about their clients. In mid-2007, the attorney first requested an injunction against Google to halt search results about his fashion model clients, claiming that pornographic Web sites used their pictures illegally, CNET writes. Leguizamon is also seeking compensation for his clients between 100,000 and 400,000 pesos, or about $30,000 to $120,000.

A Yahoo search in Argentina for Maradona would currently yield the following results: “On the occasion of a court order sought by private parties, we have been forced to temporarily remove some or all of the search results relating to it.”

Google Argentina has appealed the decision. The Internet companies contend that they should not be held responsible for information on the Web sites that they provide. A Google spokesman called the lawsuit “completely illogical” and added, “It would be like suing the newsstand for what appears in the newspapers it sells. … The lawsuits should be against the websites carrying the information, not us,” Time magazine reports.

A prominent judge, Maria Servini de Cubria, is also one of the 110 actors, models, athletes and public figures involved in the case. “She is a public official,” said the Google Argentina spokesperson. “Where do we draw the line?”
The legal action in Argentina would not be viable in the United States or in European Union countries. “In the United States, federal law generally says that search engines are not responsible for the content of pages they index,” according to CNET. Alberto Arebalos, Google’s director of Latin America global communications and public affairs, said that he was not aware of any other situations where an individual attempted to block search engine results involving his or her name. However, other countries like China have sought to restrict information available on the Internet.

Related Topics: Global Network Initiative seeks new standards

Internet companies including Yahoo, Google and Microsoft teamed up with human rights groups to advocate the Global Network Initiative in late October. The culmination of a two-year effort, the initiative is meant to counteract the attempts by some governments, particularly that of China, to suppress the dissemination of information on the Internet, and to use the Internet as a surveillance tool on their populations.

The Initiative states that privacy is “a human right and guarantor of human dignity,” and the companies that participate in the campaign are supposed to object when a country attempts to seize that right.

Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have faced criticism in recent years for acceding to certain countries’ requests to minimize Internet freedom, and the Initiative is seen as their response. Google has been charged with blocking information about democracy and Tiananmen Square on the Internet, for example, at the insistence of the Chinese government, the BBC reports. Canadian researchers have claimed that a Skype joint venture has kept tabs on some Chinese Internet users. Observers have named the result of such alliances between the Internet companies and the Chinese government the “Great Firewall of China.”

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines