20 December 2013
Last updated at 10:42 ET
Ian ‘H’ Watkins said he was “astonished” by the Google News search results
Lawyers for Steps singer Ian “H” Watkins have approached Google after his image appeared next to stories about convicted paedophile Ian Watkins.
The “furious” singer’s management said lawyers were “taking immediate steps to urgently rectify the position”.
He was said to be “astonished” that his photo was still being linked to “the appalling crimes of the Lostprophets singer”.
Google said it was looking into “layout” issues with its pages.
Mr Watkins won a court apology earlier this week after website E! Online used his picture on a story about the abuse case.
Unlike typical news websites, Google News is not managed by a human editor, instead using complex algorithms to determine the importance and relevance of stories posted on news websites around the world.
Google’s algorithm appeared to be unable to differentiate between the two cases, taking a picture – from a BBC News article about the E! apology – and pairing it with a separate article by CBS News about the abuse.
A Google spokesman added: “For some specific searches Ian H Watkins’ picture is appearing in our results because he is relevant to the story, having received a court apology.
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We are looking into the issue he raises”
“We are looking into the issue he raises.”
‘Angry and upset’
“A publisher’s intention is irrelevant to the question of liability for defamation,” said Emma Woollcott, media lawyer at Mishcon de Reya.
“What matters is what the ordinary person would understand by what they read.
“If electronic algorithms connect two pieces of information and defamatory inferences arise, there may be potential for liability, even if the connection is inadvertent.”
US-based CBS News, which incorrectly received criticism from several users on Twitter because of the mix-up, said it had never had an image of “H” in its system – and was therefore confident it had not made an error.
After being alerted to the problem by one of his fans, Ian ‘H’ Watkins tweeted angrily about the issue on Thursday, saying: “I can’t actually tell you how angry and upset I am right now…. ;0(“
He shared a screenshot showing the results of a search for “ian watkins cbs news”.
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