The regulation of Google’s search results has come up from time to time over the past decade, and although the idea has gained some traction in Europe (most recently with “right to be forgotten” laws), courts and regulatory bodies in the US have generally agreed that Google’s search results are considered free speech. That consensus was upheld last Thursday, when a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Google’s right to order its search results as it sees fit.
The owner of a website called CoastNews, S. Louis Martin, argued that Google was unfairly putting CoastNews too far down in search results, while Bing and Yahoo were turning up CoastNews in the number one spot. CoastNews claimed that violated antitrust laws. It also took issue with Google’s refusal to deliver ads to its website after CoastNews posted photographs of a nudist colony in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Google then filed an anti-SLAPP motion against the plaintiff. Anti-SLAPP regulations in California allow courts to throw out lawsuits at an early stage if they’re intended to stifle free speech rights. In this case, the judge agreed [PDF] that Google was permitted by the First Amendment to organize its search results as it saw fit.