Freedom of speech argument wins case for GoogleFreedom of sp

Freedom of speech argument wins case for Google

Freedom of speech on the Internet, even if it causes harm to another company, is sacrosanct, at least when it comes to Google Technology Inc.

That was the ruling by a U.S. District Court judge in Oklahoma last month when a Web advertising company tried and failed to successfully sue Google for lowering its ranking on Google searches.

The case hinged on complicated mathematical algorithms and U.S. First Amendment rights, but it all came down to a simple truth: The order of appearance of Web sites on Google searches can make or break those sites.

As every Internet user knows, if a Web page appears high on a Google search, it gets noticed, especially now that Google is the Internet's dominant search engine. If a site appears far down and requires searchers to scroll through page after page of search results, well, good luck.

The problem arose when Oklahoma City-based SearchKing Inc., a portal company that lists Internet directories, came up with a way to try to profit from this ranking system.

SearchKing, which is basically a directory of Web directories linking numerous sites to each other, set up a service that brings together Web sites that have high Google rankings with other sites looking to advertise on them.

The logic being, advertise on a popular Web site and you can share that site's popularity.

For the more popular sites, SearchKing charged advertisers a higher fee.

But shortly after launching the service last summer, SearchKing's own ranking on Google plummeted, and the page rank for the ad service, called PR Ad Network, was eliminated completely, according to a court document.

SearchKing sued.

It said Google intentionally lowered SearchKing's ranking to stamp out the business. Not so, said Google, and here's where the First Amendment argument came in.

Google tends to portray its technology as hands off and objective. It likens its service to a kind of high-tech card catalogue or, say, the Dewey decimal system of the Internet.

But in the District Court case, Google argued that its ranking system isn't an objective algorithm, but is subjective, and is therefore constitutionally protected as free speech. Google said it has a right to tweak its technology and to make whatever changes to its rankings.

SearchKing cried double standard. But the court didn't agree, saying that search engines results are opinions.

"Other search engines express different opinions, as each search engine's method of determining relative significance [of search results] is unique," the court said.

In the end, the judge granted Google's motion to dismiss the case.

17:19 Gepost door AlphaGamma | Permalink | Commentaren (0) |  Facebook |

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