The Story so Far
Earlier this month we reported details of how a Dutch news site, Klup.nl had been sued by a local BMW dealer because of the way Google had summarised one of its pages.
Zwartepoorte, a BMW dealership, had discovered a search for “Zwartepoorte + bankrupt” returned a page description, or “snippet”, that supposedly gave the impression that its dealership had in fact gone bankrupt.
No one at Klup.nl had ever even written a story about Zwartepoorte and bankruptcy, however Google’s algorithm had joined together two unrelated sentences from the site for its index abstract.
Irrespective, Zwarteporte took the site to court and believe it or not, the judge ruled the site was liable. The site’s founder Nico Schoonderwoerd was order to immediately pay €1230 and a €500 per day fine until the search engine results disappear – all that on top of the cost of lawyers.
Although the website owner Nico Schoonderwoerd claims to have removed the page on Zwartepoorte, I was able to find a page about the same company, with similar keywords “Zwartepoorte and Failliet” on a site called yellowrebel.com. It contains exactly the same words and surely, its only a matter of time before it is sued too.
What Next and How You Can Help
Unsurprisingly Schoonderwoerd and his lawyer, Menno Weij, have now officially appealed the decision. John Soeters who works for the site and is helping collect donations to support the appeal, but has no vested financial interest, makes a valid point:
“This verdict influences every site with user generated content. Every site with user generated content now has to take action to prevent these kind of false suggestions. This is impossible, especially because the Google algorithm is not disclosed. We hope that all those Web 2.0 sites will support Miljoenhuizen.nl in this fight against censorship”
As with most cases, there is a great deal of expense involved, and this is no different. Schoonderwoerd is looking for donations to help support the appeal, and frankly I think a small donation to ensure this sort of ruling isn’t referred to in future cases is a worthwhile expense.