Monday, Nov 17, 2008
Argentines clicking on the local version of Yahoo in search of information about their country’s most legendary soccer star (and current national team coach) are in for a disappointment. All they’ll see is a disclaimer in Spanish stating: “Due to a court order requested by private parties, we find ourselves obliged to temporarily suspend all or some of the results related to this search.” The only exceptions are links to major news media sites. Nor is this peculiar result exclusive to searches for Diego Maradona. The soccer star is just one of 110 major public figures in Argentina to have secured a court order restraining the Argentine versions of Google and Yahoo from serving up search results on their names.
What worries the search engines is that the ruling’s legal principle effectively holds them responsible for the content of web sites turned up in their searches.
A spokesperson for Google Argentina labeled the lawsuit “completely illogical. It would be like suing the newsstand for what appears in the newspapers it sells. Or demanding the newsstand vendor to tear out offending pages from the newspapers. The lawsuits should be against the websites carrying the information, not us.” Google Argentina has appealed the court order, and says it will not filter any links until the appeal has been decided.
The lawsuit is the work of Martin Leguizamon, 48, a Buenos Aires attorney who has taken on the local versions of the two internet giants on behalf of many of Argentina’s best-known actors, models, sports personalities and judges. “We started our first lawsuit two years ago,” says Leguizamon. “When Maradona found out about what we were doing he came to see me and asked me to represent him as well.”
Maradona, widely viewed as one of the greatest soccer players of all time, has had a career of highs and lows. His two goals against England at the 1986 World Cup — one of them scored illegally with his hand, which he famously attributed to “the hand of God” — helped to symbolically avenge Argentina’s defeat in the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas war, and he went on to lead Argentina to victory over Germany in the final that year. But he was banned from the professional game in Italy in 1991 for cocaine use, and he tested positive for drugs at the 1994 World Cup tournament. He recently reclaimed the public spotlight by accepting the job of Argentina’s national coach, although in keeping with his mercurial personality, within a week he was threatening to resign if he couldn’t get his way on coaching-staff appointments.