Between a lock and a hard place. Should search engines be responsible for verifying the legitimacy of the companies they include in their search results? A locksmith in Lorton, Virginia, is claiming that they should. Mark Baldino of Baldino’s Lock & Key asserts that, despite having paid $1 million in advertising fees to search engines over the last several years, his business has declined by about $2 million. And so he’s fighting back. In a lawsuit that he’s filed in Virginia federal court, Baldino alleges that Google, Yellowbook and Ziplocal violated several state and federal laws by knowingly listing unlicensed locksmiths in their search results, thereby forcing Baldino to purchase advertisements that make his business stand out among the imposters. He’s seeking damages and an injunction requiring the search engine defendants to prevent unlicensed locksmiths from appearing in their search results. The defendants respond that, among other defenses, they’re shielded from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides search engines and other interactive computer services with a broad safe harbor from claims relating to information received from others. According to the New York Times, few, if any, other lawsuits have addressed the question raised by Baldino’s suit, perhaps highlighting the quixotic nature of his claims.
Going mobile. As the owner of four of the five most downloaded apps in the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play in October 2014, Facebook is taking the mobile scene by storm. The social media giant now accounts for 20 percent of all the data that flows through mobile phones, thanks in large part to its early-2014 adoption of its “autoplay” feature, which results in a video included in a Facebook user’s newsfeed to automatically start playing unless the user has turned the feature off—more video streams mean more data traffic. Moreover, Facebook’s advertising model has adapted to reflect Internet users’ exodus from their desktop computers; indeed, mobile devices currently account for two-thirds of the company’s advertising revenue.
Trial tweets. A federal district court judge in New York City refused to grant a new trial to lawyers convicted on immigration fraud charges based on the convicts’ claims that a juror’s tweets revealed a bias against them. During the immigration lawyers’ trial, the juror—a “romantic suspense writer”—tweeted things like: “I suppose it’s inappropriate to ask judges, prosecutors and witnesses to talk to your MWA [Mystery Writers of America] chapter after the trial ends?” and “I really like our judge . . . she’s the kind of person I would be interested in talking to.” (One of the tweets even ended with “#juryduty rocks.”) U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams held that such tweets didn’t express the juror’s views about the defendants or the strength of the prosecution’s case.