Is a bad suggestion a good thing?
It could be based on the volume of international press an Irish hotel received after filing a suit against Google because the search giant’s autocomplete function suggested the hotel was in financial difficulty (see screen print below).
After repeated efforts to have Google remove the automated suggestion — first via Google’s customer service, then using lawyers’ letters — the Ballymascanlon Hotel filed in court to have the autocomplete suggestion removed. A good history of the case is available on TheOpenAlgorithm.com.
My first reaction was to feel sorry for the hotel, but also wonder at their thinking because autocomplete is largely based on Google’s record of queries on the subject. On digging some more, however, cases have already been won in France and Italy to have some search suggestions removed. And Google itself refuses to suggest search topics for a whole slew of things. Think pornography, racial hatred, etc.
Naturally, I first heard about the case browsing the news on Google. But the story came via the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia. MSNBC also picked up the story in America. And just hours after the story was first reported, the search for “Ballymascanlon hotel receivership” almost all deal with the lawsuit. There is a stray review on TripAdvisor with a rumor that a nearby hotel was seeking bankruptcy protection.
But given the state of the Irish economy, and that many hotels have, indeed, gone bust, the search term is justified. One hotel spokesman said engaged couples have been reluctant to plan receptions and pay deposits because of the search suggestion.
Meanwhile, young couples planning a year or more out are well advised to do due diligence on the financial state of their reception venue.
While sympathetic to the hotel, their effort is a little too much like censorship to me. On the other hand, they claim to have suffered. But bringing the lawsuit has prompted worldwide publicity and loaded the search results in their favor.
So, it seemed to the hotel that there was such a thing as bad publicity for a while. But now it all looks very positive.
Image of Proleek Dolmen, which is on the grounds of the Ballymascanlon Hotel, labeled for reuse courtesy of Geograph.ie.