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November 18, 2014

US court rules search results are free speech

Antitrust complaint against Google dismissed as unconstitutional.

By Jimmy Nicholls

A San Franciscan court has ruled that Google’s search results qualify as free speech, throwing out a complaint against the search engine’s page rankings.

CoastNews, which covers the Bay Area and northern coastline of California, argued that Google was unfairly placing it on its search results page for competitive reasons, comparing its ranking to a higher placement on Yahoo and Bing.

This prompted Google to file an anti-SLAPP measure, a legal device which invokes the constitutional right to free speech, a measure that satisfied the judge who dismissed the case.

In his ruling Judge Ernest Goldsmith said: "[The] Defendant has met its burden of showing that the claims asserted against it arise from constitutionally protected activity, thereby shifting the burden to [the] Plaintiff to demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the merits of the Complaint.

"[The] Plaintiff has failed to file an opposition to [the] Defendant’s Motion, and has produced no evidence supporting a probability of success."

The judgement contrasts with the approach of the European Commission, which is continuing to investigate the search engine on antitrust charges, after it reopened the case it closed earlier in the year.

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