Max Mosley plans to sue Google over newspaper’s pictures of orgy

As he gets ready to launch a tell-all biography, the former motorsport boss attacks search engine for its ‘lack of accountability’

Ian Burrell
Friday 16 May 2014 19:27
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Max Mosley has asked lawyers to look into serving an injunction on Google in the wake of the landmark “right to be forgotten” ruling by the European Court of Justice, which has led to more than 1,000 people applying for historical information to be removed from the search engine.

In an interview with The Independent at his home in Knightsbridge, London, Mosley said he hoped the ECJ ruling would mean that the Silicon Valley giant could no longer claim to be beyond the laws of Europe. “Google’s view is that nobody should interfere in what they do and they should have the right to put anything up they want to put up,” he said. “I think this decision confirms that Google are not in sole charge and that the rule of law applies, not the rule of Google.”

Mosley, 74, who has won court rulings against Google in Germany and France over the continued publication of images of him taken at an orgy by the now defunct News of the World, said that because those pictures “have been ruled illegal by the High Court” his case was “completely different” to others who have made “takedown” applications to the internet company. As of yesterday, typing “Max Mosley” into Google triggered the prompts “case” and “video” – despite the fact that the High Court ruled in 2008 that the tabloid had breached his privacy and awarded him £60,000 in damages.

Mosley said his lawyers were “studying the implications” of the ECJ case with a view to further legal action. “Logically we should be able to get an injunction stopping them showing these pictures at all and obviously there would be serious consequences if they then breached that injunction,” he said. “But the precise way of going about getting that is a matter for the lawyers.”

Mosley – who said he was close to completing what is set to be an explosive autobiography, revealing details of his time as head of motor sport’s governing body, the FIA, and his battles with powerful newspaper companies and Google – argued Google should be made to be proactive in blocking these “illegal” images. “If some obscure site puts one [of the pictures] up, Google finds it and there it is on the search results. Each time you have to say to them ‘Take it down’ – and they do eventually,” he said.

“In Germany we kept telling the actual sites to take it down, about 400 of them, but it’s a never ending task. You would spend the rest of your life watching the Internet every day and then getting on to Google and saying ‘Can you take that down?’ It’s completely unreasonable to expect an individual to do that.”

Mosley’s campaigning has made him a central figure in the debate on future regulation of the press. He is a supporter of the reform group Hacked Off, but has never contributed to it financially. He said he was encouraged that the Independent Press Standards Organisation, being set up by the newspaper industry, had appointed Sir Alan Moses as its chairman.

Mosley welcomed the appointment: “I think he will be a very good influence,” he said. Although IPSO will not sign up to the Parliament-approved Royal Charter on press regulation, Mosley is hopeful that Sir Alan will ensure the body is compliant with the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson following his long inquiry.

Mosley denies being an obsessive enemy of free speech, saying that he merely believes that an independent third party – a judge or the Information Commissioner, rather than an editor – should be the arbiter of whether the public’s right to know outweighs an individual’s right to privacy in complex cases.

“I don’t think freedom of speech comes into it,” he said. “It’s a clash of fundamental rights which someone has to resolve.”

He says he is more concerned with Google’s lack of accountability than the threat it poses to privacy. He sympathises with competitors who recently failed to persuade Brussels to take punitive action against Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices.

“The great danger is that the European Commission is very political and if you have got a powerful lobby operating in Brussels you can get things done that shouldn’t be done,” he said.

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