Injunction against Google
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The first defamation injunction case in the UK against Google search results and blogs
It is possible to take out an injunction against Google in the UK. Injunctions are court orders that either compel someone to do something or prevent them from exercising a particular activity.
The first UK Google injunction was obtained in 2011 by solicitor Yair Cohen. The order required Google to reveal the personal details of individuals who were defaming a UK business on the internet. The alleged defamation was posted on Blogger, a blogging platform owned and administered by Google. The claimant, who was seeking the injunction against Google was a news publishing group, Wyvern Media, which at the time was servicing tens of thousands of customers each year across the UK. Wyvern's had been the subject of online complaints by a small number of business customers who placed adverts with the news organisation but who felt that they hadn’t been given value for money or that there had been too many errors with their billing.
One disgruntled customer of Wyvern's tried without success to recoup money from the company, money that he had paid for advertising in some of the newspapers owned by Wyvern. He believed that he was mis-sold, a claim which the company denied. When he did not receive a refund for the adverts that he had placed with the paper, he went online to try and put pressure on the company by creating several blogs that the company believed were highly defamatory.
To hide his real identity, the customer created the blogs under a false name, then passed the job of posting the defamatory posts to a friend. When he was initially approached by Wyvern's solicitor, he denied that he was the individual behind the blog posts.
Eventually, and only after he was informed that the firm will be applying for a third party disclosure order, also known as Norwich Pharmacal Order, the customer admitted that although technically he did not own the blogs, he was somehow able to influence their content. This was insufficient so the firm applied for a Norwich Pharmacal Order and was granted a court order, effectively an injunction, ordering Google to provide detailed disclosure of the individual who was the administrator of the blog, along with the details of other users of the blog, who posted the alleged defamatory material.
When the High Court order was served, Google was told to disclose the blog owner’s user name, email address, and IP address to Yair Cohen and his colleagues, who were fighting to have the defamatory content against their client removed from the American-based blog. Google was also required to supply information about the Gmail account associated with the creator of the blog, as well as other data that could help identify the anonymous user. In light of the High Court order, Google decided of its own accord to shut down the defamatory blogs. This prevented the need for further court proceedings.
The outcome of the first case set an important precedent and paved the way for future similar claims and injunction applications. Whilst the first injunction request against Google, in relation to defamatory posts on its Blogger platform, still, required settling a legal precedent, Google was at the time, and still remains relatively cooperative with the legal process. In most cases since, Google has been highly cooperative with similar court orders and has always been willing to comply with them even without specific permissions from the court to serve the injunctions outside the jurisdiction.
The cost of obtaining an injunction against Google has been substantially reduced in recent years. This is due to the streamlining of the process at both ends, our law firm, and Google. Still, the average cost of obtaining disclosure orders and injunctions has been reduced from tens of thousands to less than five thousand pounds. Yet, this still remains beyond the affordability of many small businesses but at least, knowing that such injunctions are likely to be granted, whenever there is a reasonably good case to do so.
Case studies are based on true cases where names, dates and circumstances have often been amended to protect the identity of those involved.