Former head of Formula 1 racing, Max Mosley, has taken Google to court in an attempt to force the web firm to remove images of his involvement in a role-playing sex party.
The case, being heard by a French court, marks the latest in a number of privacy battles by Mosley after the News of the World newspaper published images of what it claimed was a Nazi-themed sex party in 2008.
Mosley, who denied a Nazi theme but admitted to have been involved in role-playing, won £60,000 after suing the now defunct newspaper for an invasion of privacy.
Now Mosley is targeting Google in an effort to force the search provider to use software filters to block or remove any pages containing the grainy images published in the paper from the web, in addition to removing any thumbnails or videos of the activity.
The former F1 boss claims that the fact the images are available online for people to search for and view represents an invasion of his privacy.
“Google is perpetuating not only the spread of these illegal images but it is perpetuating the curiosity of internet users,” Clara Zerbib, a lawyer representing Mosley told a courtroom inside Paris’s Palais de Justice on Wednesday.
Google fought back, arguing that filtering the images would represent a new form of web censorship, which if enabled, could eventually lead to news websites and satirist websites being blocked.
“You can’t decide now that the context for these links will forever be illicit,” said Christophe Bigot, a Google Lawyer. “The balance between privacy and free expression is necessarily case by case.”
Google made additional comments in a post on its Europe Blog, titled Fighting against a censorship machine.
“We sympathize with Mr Mosley, and with anyone who believes their rights have been violated. We offer well-established tools to help people to remove specific pages from our search results when those pages have clearly been determined to violate the law,” wrote Daphne Keller, Associate General Counsel.
“But the law does not support Mr Mosley’s demand for the construction of an unprecedented new internet censorship tool,” she continued that if implemented such software “might end up censoring news reports about Mr Mosley’s own court case”.
“This not just a case about Google, but the entire internet industry.
If Mr Mosley’s proposal prevails, any start-up could face the same daunting and expensive obligation to build new censorship tools – despite the harm to users’ fundamental rights and the ineffectiveness of such measures,” the post continued.
“We hope that the courts of France and Germany, where Mr Mosley has also filed suit, will reject his request for a censorship machine,” Keller concluded.
The court is set to come to a decision about the case, subject to appeal, on October 21.