Max Mosley's legal attempt to force Google in France and Germany to act as a self-appointed censor and remove controversial material ahead of any formal court order, would "fundamentally alter the web", according to a leading free-speech pressure group.
Mr Mosley, the former head of world motorsport who won a £60,000 privacy action against the News of the World following a libellous story that wrongly alleged a "Nazi-themed" orgy with five prostitutes, is suing the leading internet search company in Germany and France, and is legally active in 20 other jurisdictions. All actions aim to remove any link to the NOTW article and video.
The Index on Censorship claimed the legal action by Mr Mosley showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of search engines.
Padraig O'Reilly, news editor of IoC, said: "Search engines are not publishers and cannot be held responsible for everything on the web."
Google has already removed hundreds of links to the NOTW article.