Former local election candidate claims Google is discriminating against him due to his religious beliefs

A former local election candidate claims Google is discriminating against him because of his religious beliefs by permitting untrue allegations he is a homophobe to be at the top of the first page of the search engine, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

Mark Savage, who ran as an independent in Swords, Co Dublin, in the last elections told the High Court Google's treatment of him was part of the internet giant's own "worldwide campaign in support of LGBT issues and I take that as discrimination against me".

Google was not responsive to his "take down" request in relation to the homophobe claims because of his religious beliefs and "my disapproval for gay marriage, gay lifestyle and inappropriate behaviour".

Mr Savage is opposing an appeal by the Data Protection Commissioner and Google over a Circuit Court decision in favour of Mr Savage's application that internet threads relating to the homophobe allegation should be taken down under "right to be forgotten" guidelines.

He objects to a thread on Reddit describing him as “Mark Savage - North County Dublins (sic) homophobic candidate”.

The thread arose from election leaflets handed out during his campaign referring to “gay perverts cavorting en flagrante on the beach on broad daylight”.

If the Circuit Court ruling on the right to be forgotten in favour of Mr Savage is upheld, it will impose an “intolerable and unworkable” burden search engines, Google says.

On the second day of the appeal before Mr Justice Michael White, Mr Savage, representing himself, argued the Circuit Court decision should stand.

He said the refusal of the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon to order Google to take down the thread showed a failure to comprehend a previous case where a take down order was made for a politician in the Labour Party which supported a yes vote in the gay marriage referendum.

The politician, who he did not want to name, had made inappropriate replies to a constituent who had contacted him.

Ms Dixon treated Mr Savage less favourably than the politician, who succeeded in his take down request, because of his religious beliefs and opposition to gay marriage, he said.

She basically took "almost verbatim" what Google had told her in her decision refusing a take down order for him, he said.

He claimed she made her decision "as a favour to the political party because it supported a yes vote but was not going to to give it to this guy who was an election candidate in Swords because he was complaining about inappropriate behaviour by middle aged men on public beaches in front of young children in broad daylight".

Responding to arguments from Cian Ferriter SC, for Google, in relation to the threads being opinions of people, Mr Savage said the effect of the Reddit thread was to present as a fact a matter which was based on an opinion. A fact could not be based on an opinion under defamation law, he said.

In relation to the discussion which occurred on this Reddit thread, Mr Savage said he had did not object to "ad hominem" abuse as he understood there was no right in law not to be offended. But it was misleading, as Google had claimed, that the reason for permitting this thread was that it was a matter of public interest, he said.

He "did not mind the abuse" but to call him a homophobe, which was not based on fact, was a different matter.

He disputed Google's claim that the fact that the homophobe thread appeared on the first page of a search was the result of automatic word searching. Even though there was more recent information about him, including newspaper articles, they did not come up before the Reddit thread, he said.

The case resumes on Tuesday.

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