Google has removed hundreds of web pages relating to former Formula 1 boss Max Mosley’s sex life from its search results index, the Leveson Inquiry heard.
But the internet giant said it dealt with requests for material to be excluded on a country-by-country basis, meaning articles and videos might remain accessible on other national versions of its site.
Mr Mosley told the inquiry in November that he had spent over £500,000 trying to restore his reputation after a March 2008 News of the World article alleging he had a “sick Nazi orgy”, something he strongly denied.
He described his strenuous efforts to get articles removed from websites, adding: “The fundamental thing is that Google could stop this appearing but they don’t or won’t as a matter of principle.”
Google legal director Daphne Keller today confirmed that someone in Mr Mosley’s position would have to apply individually to have web pages removed from the company’s sites in different countries.
She told the inquiry: “I would hope that wouldn’t be a terribly difficult thing to do, and I can tell you that in his case we have removed hundreds of URLs.”
Ms Keller said a defamatory video could be removed from one of Google’s national sites but remain up on another.
“If there is a country whose law says that that should stay up, then in that country we would comply with that law,” she said.
But the lawyer rejected a suggestion that Google should block certain search terms.
She said: “In the Max Mosley case, obviously there has been all kinds of news coverage about this very inquiry, and other coverage that’s legitimate, and that you wouldn’t want to disappear from search results.”
In the first six months of last year, Google’s UK site received 65 government requests for a total of 333 different pieces of content to be removed, 82% of which were complied with.
Some 135 of these pages were singled out on the basis of national security, 157 for privacy and security reasons, and 16 because they were defamatory.
Ms Keller warned that Google would end up with a “lowest common denominator of lawful speech” if it removed offending material from all of its national sites after upholding a complaint about its UK service.
The lawyer said it normally took Google “days” to deal with a request to remove a page from its search results.
But she stressed that “Google is not the internet” and that it does not have power to bring websites down completely.