Germany’s Former First Lady Sues Google to Stop the Internet from Calling Her a Prostitute

Illustration for article titled Germany’s Former First Lady Sues Google to Stop the Internet from Calling Her a Prostitute

Germany's former first lady Bettina Wulff launched a legal armada of defamation suits against Google, a German celebrity television presenter, and pretty much anyone else in the media that's taken to perpetuating the rumor that she used to work in the "red light world" of prostitution.


According to the Telegraph, rumors that Wulff worked as a prostitute or escort when she was younger have followed her ever since her husband, Christian Wulff, was nominated to become Germany's president in 2010. She has steadfastly insisted that the rumors are totally false, but has had to cope with a seemingly bottomless well of prostitution allegations, most notably from a well-known German TV talking head, Gunter Jauch, who earlier this May refused to sign a "cease-and-desist declaration" drawn up by Wulff's attorney.

Wulff, however, has taken on a substantially brawnier opponent in Google, whom she filed a lawsuit against to stop search terms such as "prostitute," "escort" or "red-light past" from appearing as recommendations next to her name. So far, Wulff's legal push has led 34 bloggers and media-types to sign commitments to stop repeating the false allegations that Wulff used to be a prostitute, and though the battle against Google may prove a little tougher, the Telegraph helpfully notes that a precedent for erasing Google's search-term association memory exists: a Japanese man, frustrated that autocomplete would associate his name with crimes he didn't commit, successfully got a court to order Google to delete the heinous recommendations linked to his name.

Germany's former first lady takes legal action over internet search slurs [Telegraph]


Though the Japanese precedent wouldn't carry a lot of weight in Europe, there are search terms which don't come up in autocomplete, so there has to be some kind of controlling database. Prior to this post, I didn't know anything about the woman, but when I copy and paste her name into Google, autocomplete implies she's a hooker. In fact, it gives no other options behind her name and because the idea is tantalizing, undoubtedly it generates more clicks.

I'm not sure what the answer is and I don't think Google wants to field an endless stream of lawsuits all over the globe, but it could be a problem for autocomplete.

Also, by initiating this lawsuit and the publicity the story will naturally get, pretty much every one is going to hear of her denials and that could be just another step in restoring her name.