Google apologises to Ashfield MP over false advert claiming he was sympathetic to child abuse

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Google has issued a formal apology to Ashfield MP Lee Anderson after it ran false advertising suggesting he was linked to child abuse.

At London’s High Court today (Thursday, March 10), Google Ireland issued an apology to Mr Anderson, after running the advert, seen on a website in February 2021, suggested he was "protective of or sympathetic to the abuse of children".

Google removed the advert but didn’t accept liability for it, the court heard.

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Mr Anderson disagreed with that and thought Google was liable and, In the end, Google accepted that the advert was untrue, that it shouldn’t have been displayed as it didn’t comply with the Google Ads policies, and that Mr Anderson suffered distress.

Lee Anderson MP outside London's High CourtLee Anderson MP outside London's High Court
Lee Anderson MP outside London's High Court

The MP felt this was enough to vindicate his reputation and was happy to settle with Google on that basis.”

Speaking after the settlement, which included paying Mr Anderson’s ‘reasonable legal costs’, he said: “I am pleased that Google has publicly apologised in Court and put an end to this very difficult and distressing time for me and my family.

“I do, however, think it is a real shame that it has taken so long for this to happen and that I had to get lawyers involved and threaten Google with legal action to get here.

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“I remain concerned that Google’s services have been used by my desperate political opponents to smear my good name to thousands of people.

"I understand there are people who will sink to the lowest levels to undermine me and my work, but to see them being able to use a company like Google to amplify their bile to a massive audience is difficult to comprehend.”

James Roochove, Director of law firm Astraea Linskills, which represented the MP, said: “It’s not every day that Google apologises to someone in the High Court or admits it got something wrong.

"The last thing our democracy needs is for false and defamatory adverts to be displayed to thousands of people online. It can give fringe groups access to huge audiences, and taking legal action against those fringe groups can be an unedifying prospect.”

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