An Australian cancer surgeon has sued Google for defamation, claiming the search engine’s autocomplete cost him clients. According to the lawsuit, when a Google user types “Guy Hin…” into a search, the words “Guy Hingston Bankrupt” appear. Although the associated links have nothing to do with Hingston’s medical practice, the surgeon alleges Google’s automatic search results are defamatory and “highly offensive to a reasonable person.” He claims he contacted Google multiple times to correct the issue with no results.
“Dr. Hingston is a surgeon practicing in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia,” the complaint states. “Dr. Hingston’s surgical practice focuses on breast cancer. Given his professional practice and position in his community, maintaining his good reputation is critical. Dr. Hingston has lost a number of patients and financiers who are refusing to associate and/or deal with Dr. Hingston as a consequence of the reference on Google to a bankruptcy.”
The fact is, however, that the search results were accurate. Although Guy Hingston’s medical practice is successful and in no danger of bankruptcy, he did, in fact, purchase an aviation business that went bust. The search results related to the Google autocomplete point to a bankruptcy filing by Eclipse Aviation—a business Hingston purchased 2 ½ years ago. Therefore Hingston’s claims that the Google results are defamatory and have nothing to do with him are completely false. He may not like seeing his name associated with a bankruptcy, but the fact of the matter is… he was.