Japanese Court Orders Google to Pay Fine for Embarrassing Autocomplete Results

We're sure Google can afford the fine.

Not our words! (Photo: Google)

Not our words! (Photo: Google)

Google’s autocomplete function is both humorous and harmless, but as it turns out, it’s getting the company in trouble in Japan. A Tokyo District Court ruled yesterday that the search giant must modify its results so it no longer incorrectly incriminates people for things they didn’t do.

An unidentified man in Tokyo served Google with the lawsuit last year after it refused to edit the results when more than 10,000 suggestions appeared linking him to criminal activities and slandering his name. Google was then served with a temporary injunction, but abide by it since its search services operate outside of Japan. This week’s ruling is permanent, but the company can appeal it.

The man said the results contributed to him losing his job and being unable to get another, thus causing him mental and financial anguish. Though his claims that the search results led to his firing couldn’t be proven, Google was still ordered to pay 300,000 yen ($3,100) for pain and suffering.

The unidentified Japanese man isn’t the first to sue Google for its autocomplete results. In December 2011, Google was forced to pay $65,000 for defamatory search results about a French insurance company; this January an Australian man sued the company because it suggested users search “bankrupt” in conjunction with his name.

Google told CNet that it had no comment and is “studying” the ruling. No word if Jeremy Renner’s camp is thinking of a similar lawsuit.