Following a court of appeal ruling in London, Google could be held responsible for libellous posts from bloggers if it fails to remove them quickly enough.
The court said that a gap of five weeks between a complaint being made and the removal of allegedly defamatory comments on a blogpost could leave it open to a libel action. It said five weeks “was sufficiently long to leave room for an inference adverse to Google Inc".
The comments came as part of an appeal made by Payam Tamiz, a former Conservative party local council candidate and law student.
Tamiz took action against Google Inc and Google UK last year after it failed to remove remarks about him on the London Muslim blog in July 2011.
He settled with Google UK but failed in his high court attempt to sue Google Inc over comments, which included false claims Tamiz was a drug dealer and a thief, on the blog set up on the search giant's Blogger platform.
At the time, it was ruled that no libel action could be heard because Google Inc could not be deemed to be a publisher in its own right. It was also said that the five week wait for remarks to be removed, while "somewhat dilatory", was "not outside the bounds of a reasonable response".
However, the recent verdict contradicted this, saying the time was not acceptable.
The high court ultimately refused the overall appeal of the original libel action because of lack of evidence about how many people had read the offending blog comments.
The case is being seen as a landmark action because it the first time the higher court has addressed the issue of Google's liability for defamation on its blogging platform.
Iain Wilson, solicitor for Tamiz, told the Guardian he was "disappointed with the outcome of the appeal but happy to have played a role in clarifying the law for the benefit of others who might be defamed by online publications"
Speaking to the Guardian, Ian de Freitas, commercial litigator with Berwin Leighton Paisner, said the ruling was "a blow" to Google.
"It is a blow to the technology platform providers because the court of appeal decided that Google is arguably responsible for the postings by the blogger once they have been notified of them and have failed to take them down."