A businessman who was the victim of "extreme trolling" has won a legal battle with Google after the internet giant agreed to remove abusive material about him from websites.
Daniel Hegglin, a former Morgan Stanley banker, had taken the technology giant to court in an attempt to block links to the "vile and abusive" posts about him from appearing in its search results.
He was wrongly accused of being a murderer, paedophile and Ku Klux Klan sympathiser by an anonymous internet troll with defamatory posts appearing on 3600 websites over three years.
Yesterday he settled his High Court dispute with Google, whose lawyers had previously warned that the case could have "enormous implications", arguing that the internet giant is not responsible for policing the internet.
The details of the settlement, which was announced at a hearing in London in front of Mr Justice Jay, were not revealed. Instead, lawyers for both parties read out agreed statements. Hugh Tomlinson QC, acting for Mr Hegglin, told the court that Google had taken steps to remove the material.
"Whilst I am not in a position to disclose the details, I am pleased to report that the parties have now settled the matter," he said. "The settlement includes significant efforts on Google's part to remove the abusive material from Google hosted websites and from its search results."
He added that his client now intended to "concentrate his energies on bringing the person responsible for this campaign of harassment to justice". Mr Hegglin has passed the matter to police but it is understood that he does not currently know who is behind the posts.
Antony White QC, representing Google, said the case had been unusual as the person abusing the businessman had been prolific.
"Google has considerable sympathy for Mr Hegglin in what is an exceptional case of internet trolling in terms of its prominence and volume," he told the judge.
"Google provides search services to millions of people and cannot be responsible for policing internet content. It will, however, continue to apply its procedures that have been developed to assist with the removal of content which breaches applicable local laws."
Mr Hegglin, who worked at Morgan Stanley for 24 years but now lives in Hong Kong, claimed there were more than 3600 websites containing false allegations about him.
At an earlier hearing, his lawyers said the volume of the defamatory claims about their client was "increasing" and "proliferating" despite Google's attempts to deal with the issue by removing the relevant pages.
They complained that the process of deleting the links was like "playing a game of whack-a-mole" as no matter how many pages were removed, more kept springing up in their place.
In May, the European Court of Justice controversially ruled that links to irrelevant and outdated material about someone should be erased from search results if they requested their removal, giving people "the right to be forgotten". But in Mr Hegglin's case this did not work due to the constant creation of new material about him.
Outside the court, the businessman said he was "very pleased the dispute had been resolved to both parties' mutual satisfaction".
A Google spokesperson said the company had "reached a mutually acceptable agreement".
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