"Google has removed hundreds of web pages relating to former motorsport boss Max Mosley's sex life from its search results index, Britain's Leveson Inquiry on press standards has heard.
But the internet giant said it dealt with requests for material to be excluded on a country-by-country basis, meaning articles and videos might remain accessible on other national versions of its site.
Mr Mosley told the inquiry in November he had spent over £500,000 ($750,000) trying to restore his reputation after a March 2008 News of the World article alleging he had a "sick Nazi orgy", something he strongly denied.
He described his strenuous efforts to get articles removed from websites, adding: "The fundamental thing is that Google could stop this appearing but they don't or won't as a matter of principle."
Google legal director Daphne Keller on Thursday confirmed that someone in Mr Mosley's position would have to apply individually to have web pages, known as URLs, removed from the company's sites in different countries. She told the inquiry: "I would hope that wouldn't be a terribly difficult thing to do, and I can tell you that in his case we have removed hundreds of URLs."
Ms Keller said a defamatory video could be removed from one of Google's national sites but remain up on another. "If there is a country whose law says that that should stay up, then in that country we would comply with that law," she said.
But the lawyer rejected a suggestion that Google should block certain search terms. She said: "In the Max Mosley case, obviously there has been all kinds of news coverage about this very inquiry, and other coverage that's legitimate, and that you wouldn't want to disappear from search results."
The libel judgment in his favour obtained by Mosley was handed down in London by The Hon. Mr. Justice Eady. Mr Justice Eady is well-known for leaning towards the plaintiff in libel suits, bringing that entire area of British law into disrepute. His notorious judgments often lead to censorship of material that most people would think should remain uncensored. His ruling was particularly obnoxious in the Rachel Ehrenfeld case, causing the NY legislature to pass a special law to protect her from any consequences of Eady's judgment. So I have no confidence in Eady's ruling favouring Mr Mosley
That lack of confidence is strongly supported by the fact that Mosley has made strenuous efforts to have the video of his behavior suppressed. If the video just showed him having a cup of tea, why would he want it suppressed? Clearly it does at least in part support the allegations made.
To help circumvent the Mosley/Eady censorship attempts, I have made a copy of one report of the matter that is still up and reposted it here. Under U.S. law it would be regarded as in the public interest for public figures to have information about their deeds known.
I am not in fact particularly critical of Mr Mosley's actions in this matter. As I see it, it is Mr Justice Eady who has poisoned the well in the matter. He appears to have developed de novo a law of privacy that has no regard to the truth or merit of the allegations. The USA is not alone in having unelected judges who create law that would never pass muster before a democratically-elected legislature.
So until the British parliament steps in, I will continue in skepticism towards British libel judgments. The problem is well-known in Britain and the present government has promised corrective legislation -- but no such legislation appears to be on the horizon yet.