Europe and the US continue to drift further apart on Google. Even as European parliamentarians and regulators seek ways to restrain Google’s discretion over search results, US courts continue to affirm Google’s right to do whatever it wants with search results — paid and organic.
A California state court in San Francisco recently granted Google’s case-ending motion in lawsuit against the company (per GigaOm). The action, filed in June of this year in San Francisco Superior Court, was called S. Louis Martin vs. Google Inc.
Drafted and filed by the non-attorney publisher of San Francisco Bay Area Tourism website CoastNews.com, the complaint alleged unfair and deceptive business practices against Google.
The basic factual allegations included the claim that CoastNews ranked at the top of search results on Bing and Yahoo for San Francisco neighborhood keywords but didn’t rank in a comparable position on Google. Plaintiff Martin asserted that Google’s unfair and monopolistic business practices cause him lost revenue and future growth and harmed consumers as well.
Martin asked for a jury trial and sought roughly $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Google prevailed by framing plaintiff’s claim as a SLAPP lawsuit. SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” SLAPP suits are usually filed by corporations or other powerful interests often to intimidate or silence less-powerful critics.
The irony here is that the corporation (Google) was claiming that this individual plaintiff (Martin) was trying to silence its First Amendment-protected speech. The Superior Court agreed.
In its motion, essentially to dismiss the case, Google cited various prior cases and precedents that establish Google has total discretion over the content of its search results as a protected expression of its First Amendment free speech rights.