NYT: In Argentina, Google and Yahoo Not Liable

The New York Times reports on a new decision in the liability of internet intermediaries, this time in Argentia. It’s often hard to pick apart exactly what’s been going on in jurisdictions where this issue still evolving. Generally, you get a flurry of conflicting court decision in favour of absolute liability for Net middle-men, usually followed by a re-appraisal by calmer minds once the ramifications of having all the major web services effectively guilty for anything anyone ever said, anywhere online, begin to sink in.

In Argentina, the pattern seems to be that search engines were being sued by hundreds of litigants for the content and context of their results. In this particular case images (or the name) of an entertainer were being used by adult sites; she sued Yahoo and Google for defamation, and a lower court decided in her favor. Over at Ars Technica, commenter Pablius gives a link to the earlier decision (in Spanish; Google translation here).

Sure enough, the lower court declared that because search engines can filter specific content, then they are liable in all cases where they do not create such filters pre-emptively. The new decision overturns that. It may yet go to Argentina’s Supreme Court.

The biggest risk in these times of flux isn’t that these big corporations will be sued into oblivion; it’s that the issue of liability continues to remain ambiguous. Panicky companies try to avoid being sued by over-censoring or filtering content, which chills the ability of individual bloggers and journalists to use the Net for unfiltered free speech.