News: Google in Colombia, Constitutional Court orders deletion of defamatory Blogger material

27 10 2017

The latest episode in the Google litigation story has been written by the Colombian Constitutional Court. In the case of Fierro Calcedo v Google Inc (Judgment T-063A/17, in Spanish) that court ordered Google Inc, as the owner of “Blogger.com” to delete a blog which anonymously alleged that the claimant was guilty of fraud. 

Google was also ordered to remove any future blog which made the same or similar defamatory allegations against the claimant.

The petitioner, John William Fierro Calcedo, was the owner of “Meubles Caqueta” a furniture business.  On 30 January 2014, using Blogger.com, an anonymous blogger created a blog entitled ” Do not buy in Furniture Caquetá! Scammers!”.  This named him and said that he was a fraudster and that the business was dedicated to “defrauding people by various means“.

The petitioner repeatedly asked Google Inc to remove this content.   On three occasions he received a negative response to his request because ” according to his policies, this content is not inappropriate, nor is it manifestly illegal “. Google Inc indicated that the only way it would remove the blog from the Internet would be if there was a court order.

As a result, the petitioner instituted an action to protect his constitutional rights (“tutela”) against Google Inc and the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications.  He alleged that there had been violations of his rights to privacy, good name,and honour (Articles 15 and 21, Political Constitution of Colombia).

The Ministry argued that it was not responsible for the control of companies publishing on the internet. Google Inc argued that it was not responsible for the content of Blogger blogs.

In August 2016, the Civil Municipal Court 21 of Bogotá denied the requested constitutional protection. It held that neither Google Inc. nor Google Colombia Ltda. were responsible for the infringement of the petitioner’s human rights because it is not their obligation the ‘rectification, correction, elimination or complement of the information upload by users’.

The petitioner appealed to the Constitutional Court.

In a lengthy judgment, the Court reviewed its own case law on freedom of expression, privacy and responsibility for internet content, considering a wide range of authorities and international material (including Tamiz v Google from the English Court of Appeal).

The Constitutional Court reversed the lower court.  It found that the fundamental rights of privacy, honour and good name of the petitioner had been violated.  It ordered Google Inc. as the owner of “Blogger.com” to remove the blog complained of because its content anonymously imputes unproven information on the commission of the crime of fraud and other expressions that may be considered insults and slander.

In addition, Google Inc was ordered to remove any new anonymous blog created using “Blogger.com” with the same characteristics, against the same person and in the same or similar slanderous and dishonorable terms.

Finally, Court asked the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies to establish a national regulation with a view to achieving the protection of the rights of Internet users, especially in what concerns publications abusive, defamatory, dishonorable, slanderous and injurious, that infringe on the honor of the people on the Internet, to avoid the repetition of events such as those dealt with in this action.


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