Anon man suing Google wants crim conviction to be forgotten

Bungled his paperwork by posting it to London sales HQ

Google HQ logo. Pic: Bob Dormon

The nameless man suing Google is doing so over a blog post containing details of a criminal court report, making this a Right To Be Forgotten case, The Register can reveal.

The man, known only as ABC, has been attempting to force Google to delete references to a Blogspot post since late last year. He began by writing direct to the ad tech company and when it said no, he turned to the courts. Some days ago ABC had a misguided attempt to punish Google if his identity was leaked thrown out by a judge.

At that hearing the precise details of the case were not publicly known. The Register can now reveal that ABC wants to remove public references from Google to a criminal conviction that are apparently stopping him from setting up an investment business.

At a private court hearing in January, ABC, who does not have a lawyer and is arguing his case in person, tried to convince the High Court to block access to a post on squaremilenews.blogspot.com. That site contains anonymously posted news reports of London criminal court cases - including one of his own conviction.

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In his case papers ABC alleged that the blog was defamatory, contained malicious falsehoods and amounted to a breach of the Data Protection Act. He described himself, as summarised by the judge, “as an entrepreneur who is involved in business, investment and civil society ventures in the UK and overseas”, stating that “he intends to raise venture funds by equity offerings.”

News reports of court proceedings are protected by the absolute privilege rule of law in England and Wales, meaning no person can sue for defamation over a report of court proceedings provided the report is "fair, accurate, contemporaneous and published in good faith".

“The Particulars [case papers] complain that the continued publication by the Defendant of the news report referring to his conviction has prevented him from pursuing his ventures, causing him and his businesses to suffer substantial losses,” said Mr Justice Julian Knowles.

The judge, sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division’s interim applications court in January, refused ABC’s attempt to get the blog taken down – because he had tried to serve his papers on a non-existent American company by posting them to a London address. ABC had tried to send his legal demands to Google Inc (a firm that has since changed its name and was incorporated in California, USA) by having them delivered to the London address of Google UK Ltd.

“Google UK does not provide any online services. It does not own Blogger and does not control the way in which Blogger works … Google UK does not specify or control how data is processed on Blogger or what material is made available,” said a witness statement made on Google’s behalf in an earlier case which was quoted by Mr Justice Knowles as he delivered his judgment on ABC's application. The judge added: “I understand Google Inc became Google LLC in 2017 following a change in the company's corporate structure.”

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled (at paragraph 18) “any advantage enjoyed by a litigant in person imposes a corresponding disadvantage on the other side,” referring to a similar legal dispute where another person without a lawyer made a procedural mistake and then pleaded ignorance of the rules to try and have that mistake set aside.

An order made by Master Yoxall, a High Court procedural judge, in December 2017 means we cannot identify ABC – even if we knew who he was. As was learned in court some days ago, not even the judges know ABC's real name.

Google did not attend the January hearing, having written to ABC to tell him that he’d served his legal demands on a non-existent company in the wrong country. The case, however, continues.

Earlier this year the Right To Be Forgotten trial, involving pseudonymous defendants NT1 and NT2, took place in the High Court. NT2, who lost his case, is taking it to the Court of Appeal later this year. ®




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