Ulrich Richter: The Mexican lawyer to whom Google must pay 250 million dollars

Ulrich Richter answers the phone and it is he who asks: “What did you think of the ruling?” An appeal court in Mexico City has just ruled in his favor, after a judicial process that has lasted seven years, and has ruled that Google must pay 250 million dollars – some 5,000 million Mexican pesos – for non-pecuniary and punitive damages. The fine comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the lawyer for the company to withdraw a blog where his identity was usurped. Faced with Google’s refusal, Richter embarked on a crusade that has led him to enter the guts of one of the most powerful companies in the world. “It is an important ruling because it marks that the technological giants cannot go to their arbitrator affecting the rights of any person and that their actions have consequences,” explains the lawyer. The company, which has described the sentence as “arbitrary and excessive”, has announced that it will defend “freedom of expression” before the last instance.

The fight between Richter and the technology company begins in 2015. Googling his own name, the Mexican lawyer —known for defending controversial cases such as that of the former governor of Coahuila, Humberto Moreira, or former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari— comes across a blog on the Blogger platform, owned by Google, called: “Ulrich Richter Morales and his chingaderas to the fatherland”. Created in March 2014, the blog accumulates eight entries that year in which Richter is accused of money laundering, links to drug trafficking and being investigated by the DEA. Most of the publications are illustrated with images of the lawyer and one of his books with the name changed—from Manual of citizen power a How to launder money—. In the last entry, there is a photograph of Richter with his wife that reads: “This bitch taught me how to forge documents and get out clean.”

“From the very name of the blog, anyone with common sense perceives that something is wrong, that I have not created that, that it is false, it is fake news“, Explain. Since then, Richter contacts Google up to 10 times. He asked them to remove that content for identity theft, posting false information, violating their copyrights, and promoting illicit activities. “The blog was illegal and I proved that it violated Google’s own policies. Why couldn’t they remove it?” asks the lawyer, “there was no legal justification for them to keep it”. Richter explains that due to the positioning of that blog, his work as his adviser was affected, since strong accusations were made about him, and that it also affected his wife and daughters.

However, the technology company decided to rely on freedom of expression not to download that content. The lawyer rejects that argument: “The fake news they cannot be protected under any fundamental right because they are a lie”.

In 2015 he filed the criminal complaint, in 2018 he finally managed to get the trial to take place in Mexico and forced Google to sit on the bench of the Mexican Justice; Since then, a judge agreed with him in the first instance, and an appeal court, made up of the Eighth Civil Chamber of the Mexico City judiciary, gave it to him this week. “We have lasted seven years. Google used all its mechanisms to lengthen the trial and try to despair us, but they did not succeed, we had the patience, “says Richter now.

The lawyer admits that the fixed amount, the 250 million dollars, may seem “monstrous”, but believes that “it doesn’t even tickle Google”. “Punitive damages are in relation to the capacity of the offender and must be exemplary, that is, they force the action not to be repeated; in this case it would be for Google to take citizens into consideration”, explains Richter, who does not consider it that way since the technology company is used to facing large fines, both in the European Union and to avoid other lawsuits. The complainant did not use in his arguments the recognized right to be forgotten —which allows a person to decide to erase his trace from the Internet— because there are not many precedents in Mexico. The next step in this legal battle is the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN).

In this long legal process, which has more than 25 trial volumes so far, Richter has entered the guts of Google. Thorough and somewhat obsessive, the lawyer acknowledges that he “knows more about Google than many company workers.” He has studied the founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, and also his parents, he has investigated the operation and innovation of large technology companies and has ended up writing a book about them. “I call Google the Oracle of Ancient Greece, Silicon Valley Magna Greece, Stanford Plato’s Academy,” he laughs, “the tech geniuses we know today—Page, Musk, Bezos, Gates—are the reincarnation of the Pythagorean sect, are mathematicians like many of the ancient philosophers. And he ends: “Look how far I’ve come.”

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