Court claims Google lost right to pull site from search results

Supposedly, the US' free speech rights don't cover removing a site for the 'wrong' reasons.

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

You'd think that Google's search results would be protected in the US by free speech rights. Google gets to say what what shows up on its own site, right? However, one Florida court thinks differently. It recently determined that Google wasn't protected by the Constitution's First Amendment when it pulled search engine optimization firm E-ventures' website from its index. Google supposedly crossed the line when it claimed E-ventures was violating its policies by posting "pure spam" -- this wasn't strictly true, the court argued, and was driven by "anti-competitive motives" rather than self-expression.

The court also shot down Google's attempts to use a Good Samaritan clause in the law that absolves it of liability for pulling content in good faith. It's not clear that this is the case, according to the decision. Also, some of E-ventures' complaint revolves around accusations that Google wasn't acting in good faith.

We've asked Google for its take on the decision, but it's already easy to see the company challenging this outcome. There's already a precedent for Google having the right to order its search results under the First Amendment, for one thing. And as TechDirt notes, there's a real risk of this giving some companies an escape clause whenever free speech issues come up. Don't like that a search engine took down results for your content? Say it was an anti-competitive move. That doesn't mean that Google will never violate the law through its search result strategy (the EU seems to think it does), but the Mountain View crew may still have a good case.