Google Raises Its Risk of Libel Liability with Tweet Integration

Lora Bentley

Google already has antitrust regulators (not to mention competitors) up in arms as it methodically "invades" one market after the other. As eWEEK's Clint Boulton put it last week, Google demonstrates a "brazen unwillingness to leave any Web niche alone."


That unwillingness was illustrated yet again when the search giant announced it had reached an agreement with Twitter that allows Google to index tweets in its search appliance. And just this morning I saw Google now has its own URL-shortening service, presumably aimed at and tinyURL, among others.


But let me back up to the tweet integration again for a second. USA Today Technology Live blogger Byron Acohido pointed to a blog post by Outspoken Media CEO Rae Hoffman in which she not only discusses, but provides examples of, many of the bad things that might result from tweet integration that Google apparently has not yet considered. One, she says, is "real-time" libel. Hoffman explains:

If your Twitter handle is the same as your company name, you suddenly have a real time compliment or complaint feed showing up to anyone who searches your name on Google. (And just think of what this means for keyword based Twitter accounts.)... Imagine if you have a disgruntled employee who takes to tweeting badly about your company all day long in a fit of anger. Imagine if your competitor wants to play dirty. There is no way to track who owns a Twitter account, and you may find yourself having to spend a lot of time to try and stop and/or remove bogus complaints...


Since Google has already been sued for libel (and lost) over profiles posted on its Orkut site, who's to say a suit over Twitter posts won't eventually follow?

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 16, 2009 10:05 AM Nicole Nicole  says:

I have to agree that a suit is imminent but reputation risk, as you've discussed through bad reviews being shown in search engines from Twitter feeds, is a risk with or without Google's integration. It is all a question of which companies are creating social media policies that are as proactive as possible, but cover reactive measures to bad reviews as well.

- Nicole

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