Monday 20 October 2014

Koh Samui, 20th October 2014

David Hanks - suing Google

Following a short hearing at Koh Samui Provincial Court today an expat living in Thailand has been given leave to file documents that will allow a criminal indictment filed under Thailand's Computer Crimes Act to be served on the directors of internet giant Google in California.

David Hanks, 66, has been given leave to amend pleadings and file supplementary documents, including translations of the indictment previously filed in Thai language, and copies of various exhibits, which will then be sent to Google in California under provisions of Thai law that in limited circumstances allow service of Court documents outside Thailand.

In case number 1434/2557, Koh Samui Provincial Court heard that Google acts as a 'service provider' for a number of web sites, as well as numerous 'Google Plus' profiles that have been used by a small number of individuals to engage in what is described as an ongoing campaignof #cyberharassment and #cybermobbing, and it is alleged #Google is in breach of s.15 of the Computer Crimes Act of Thailand.

To comply with provisions of Thai law for serving documents in California, documents will now be translated into English, and sent via the US Embassy to be served on Google's directors in California.

The case brought by Hanks is a landmark case in so far as if Hanks succeeds in getting Google directors to Court in Thailand, it opens the door for directors of other service providers and social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to be prosecuted in Thailand by parties resident in Thailand.

In what is believed to be the first ever prosecution of an international service provider in a Thai Court, Hanks has cited ss. 15 and 17 of the Computer Crimes Act (Thailand) 2007, saying that following the discovery of a 'disgusting, vile and degrading' post on a #Google #Blogspot where the author could not be identified - and which Google subsequently refused to remove, Hanks filed the current proceedings to force removal.

Thailand has a large number of users of social media, and prior to today it was widely thought to have been near impossible to take Court action in Thailand, as service providers overseas have previously thought to have been beyond the reach of Thai Courts.

#Google have had a recent run of defeats in Courts in a number of countries, including Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Daniel Hegglin

In a recent case in the UK, the High Court made a similar ruling to the one made in Koh Samui today, and allowed Daniel Hegglin (Hegglin v Google Inc and Ors (2014) EWHC 2808 (QB)) to serve an action brought in the UK on Google in California. #Hegglin is also suing for anonymous posts indexed in Google search. The Hegglin case is reported here.

Albert Yeung

In another case filed in Hong Kong, Albert Yeung ( Sau Shing Yeung v Google Inc 1383/2012) High Court Justice Marlene Ng dismissed an application to strike out the case brought by Google who had argued they could only be sued in the United States. The Yeung case is further reported here.

Google has argued in nearly every case that it cannot be sued outside the United States and so far has lost every decision.

The case against Google filed by Hanks follows one of the individuals involved in the matter being convicted of defamation earlier this year, and a new criminal case being accepted against him by the same judge in Koh Samui last week.

Hanks said today:

'Obviously we are very happy that we can now proceed to the next stage of this case, and today's ruling shows that international service providers may well be forced to defend their policies in the Criminal Courts in Thailand'.

Other social media providers such as Facebook and Twitter are expected to monitor the outcome of this case to see if they too could be prosecuted in Thailand.


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