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German court orders Google to block Max Mosley sex pictures

Surfboards lean against a wall at the Google office in Santa Monica, California, October 11, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Surfboards lean against a wall at the Google office in Santa Monica, California, October 11, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German court has ordered Google to block search results in Germany linking to photos of a sex party involving former Formula One boss Max Mosley.

The court said on Friday that although Google had not taken the pictures it was responsible as a distributor of the images.

"The court is of the opinion that the banned pictures of the plaintiff severely violate his private sphere, as they show him active in sexual practices," the court said.

The ruling comes more than two months after a French court ordered Google to find a way to remove recurring links to images of Mosley, who was photographed in 2008 at an orgy with prostitutes.

The dispute in the Hamburg court relates to photographs of Mosley published by the defunct British tabloid News of the World that were accompanied by an article suggesting he had organized a "sick Nazi orgy".

Mosley has acknowledged that he engaged in sado-masochistic activity with the five women and paid them 2,500 sterling ($4,000), but denied the orgy was Nazi-themed.

The decision is another setback for Google as it tries to defend a global stance that the search engine is merely a platform that delivers links to content and it should not be responsible for policing them.

Although Google can delete images on its website, it cannot prevent others reposting them, resulting in a constant game of catch-up.

Google said on Friday it would appeal the ruling.

"It could mean that Internet providers are required to monitor even the smallest components of content they transmit or store for their users. We believe this is contrary to European law," a Google spokesman said.

In a blog post published in September, Google said it had already removed "hundreds of pages for Mr. Mosley" as part of a process that helps people delete specific pages from Google's search results after they have been shown to violate the law.

(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Nikola Rotscheroth; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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