Google Autocomplete connects Albert Yeung with triads

Occurred: August 2014

Emperor Group founder and CEO Dr. Albert Yeung won a court case against Google in August 2014 in which he had accused the technology company's Autocomplete search prediction function of defaming him by associating him with terms such as 'triad' and the names of individuals triad gangs.

Per Columbia University's Global Freedom of Expression project, 'the main issue (..) was whether Google could be considered a publisher of the defamatory information by merely creating an automated service. Furthermore, even if Google could not be considered a direct publisher of the information, a second issue was whether Google could still be liable as a publisher for being aware of the defamatory information and refusing to take it down.'

'Finally, a third issue considered by the Court was whether Yeung had actually suffered any damages, and if he had not, whether this action could amount to an interference with freedom of expression leading to an abuse of process,' the project notes.

The court dismissed the case, awarding damages to Yeung on the basis that Google operated and could amend Autopilot as it saw fit, and could therefore be considered a publisher. However, Google challenged the verdict, with the court allowing the case to go to an appeals court. 

Yeung had a checkered career and private life, having been variously arrested and imprisoned for perverting the course of justice, illegal bookmaking, and insider dealing.  

Operator: Alphabet/Google
Developer: Alphabet/Google

Country: Hong Kong

Sector: Retail

Purpose: Predict search results

Technology: NLP/text analysis; Deep learning; Machine learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Mis/disinformation; Legal

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Legal

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️