Google has a First Amendment right to order its search results as it pleases, a California judge has ruled in the latest attempt to challenge the site’s results rankings.
Upset that his company appeared too far down in Google’s search results, CoastNews owner Lewis Martin filed suit against the search engine in California state court. Martin claimed that his site’s SEO was significantly impacted by appearing much lower on Google’s list when compared to results for Bing and Yahoo. The complaint sought $5 million in damages.
Google responded with an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) motion, arguing that the suit must be dismissed because CoastNews was attempting to infringe the company’s free-speech rights in violation of state law. Search results are based on Google’s opinion about which Web sites will be most helpful to a user and are therefore fully protected by the First Amendment, the search engine told the court.
In a brief order, Superior Court Judge Ernest H. Goldsmith agreed and tossed CoastNews’ complaint.
“Defendant has met its burden of showing that the claims asserted against it arise from constitutionally protected activity, thereby shifting the burden to plaintiff to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of the complaint,” the court wrote. As the plaintiff failed to file an opposition to the motion “and has provided no evidence supporting a probability of success,” Judge Goldsmith struck the complaint without leave to amend.
To read the order in Martin v. Google, Inc., click here.