Attorney says Google has first amendment right to exclude pages
Google, headquartered in Mountain View, is facing a federal lawsuit
alleging illegal blackballing of websites.
By Jason Bennert, Bay City News Service
June 30, 2006
SAN JOSE (BCN) - A federal judge in San Jose indicated
today that a lawsuit accusing Google of blackballing a particular
Web site will have to be re-submitted with more facts about Google's
alleged illegal conduct.
KinderStart, a Southern California-based Web site focused on
the care and education of young children, filed the lawsuit after
Google allegedly put the site in "Google jail,'' preventing
Internet users from finding it through Google's search engine.
Google filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it
has a First Amendment right to choose which Web sites it highlights
on its search engine.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel told KinderStart attorney
Gregory Yu at the outset of this morning's hearing on the dismissal
motion that he had a problem with the lawsuit.
"I think all of the claims, with the possible exception
of the defamation claim, lack a certain specificity,'' Fogel said.
Fogel posed some pointed legal questions to Yu that the attorney
largely did not answer. Yu told the judge that KinderStart needed
to take depositions from Google to obtain information supporting
"Plaintiffs are handicapped. The entire contents ... are
buried in the bowels of Google,'' Yu said. Yu was unable to articulate
for Fogel an overarching reason why Google would blackball KinderStart
until finally the judge suggested a reason with which Yu quickly
"The reason Google is doing what they're doing to your client
is that they're a competitor,'' Fogel said.
Fogel described KinderStart as a "boutique search engine''
focused on children's issues.
Google attorney David Kramer echoed the company's court documents
that claimed Google has a free speech right to list Web sites
any way it wants.
"Page ranks are subjective. They are Google's opinion,''
Fogel questioned whether Google is defaming KinderStart, if KinderStart's
allegations that Google is deliberately excluding it from search
engine results turn out to be true.
"Aren't (Google staff) making a misrepresentation to the
community and couldn't that form the basis for a defamation claim?''
Fogel asked Kramer.
Kramer once again said that under the First Amendment, Google
can choose what it lists in its search engine results.
"The court can't, under Google's First Amendment rights,
force Google to carry anything,'' Kramer said.
Fogel said he would issue a decision in approximately one week
but told Yu that he would have to amend his lawsuit.
"The order I issue is going to require amendment of the
complaint,'' Fogel said.
Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.