Editing Google's search results would damage free speech, judge decrees

A court in San Francisco has decreed that Google can organize its search results however it likes. This declaration came in response to CoastNews, a website run by Louis Martin who claimed that Google purposely biased its news results to exclude CoastNews from the displayed content.

The case was dismissed and labeled as a 'slapp' (strategic lawsuit against public participation) case. Google representatives, lawyers Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati filed a memorandum to the court which stated that:

Google’s search results express Google’s opinion on which websites are most likely to be helpful to the user in response to a query and are thus fully protected by the First Amendment.

Judge Ernest Goldsmith of the superior court of California in San Francisco then declared that:

The defendant has met its burden of showing the claims asserted against it arise from constitutionally protected activity.

Although Google has won a minor victory here, it is reportedly facing a stronger opposition in Europe where European regulators are investigating Google's alleged misuse of its authority over the search market. These investigations are being carried out under the allegation that Google is being anti-competitive and trying to keep rivals like Microsoft in the shadow by downgrading their content in search results.

Rachel Whetstone, Google senior vice president of communications and public policy, responded to these accusations saying that:

I just don't think it's really true. Think about what Google is trying to do. We're ranking results, so somebody has to come top, and somebody has to not come top - that's the nature of a rank - and we're trying to provide the best, most convenient results for our users."

The new European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager then stated that she would like to review the case with Google saying that:

The issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps.

After the ruling in San Francisco which presents a contrast from the European regulators, it will be very interesting to see how successful Google is, regarding this rather controversial matter in the future.

Source: The Guardian |Images via Xataka, The Huffington Post

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