Google can arrange its search results however it wants, declared a San Francisco court on Tuesday.
Google search results are protected under US laws on free speech, and therefore lawsuits claiming the results are biased are dismissed, declared judge Ernest Goldsmith of the superior court of California in San Francisco.
A lawsuit was brought forward by Louis Martin, claiming Google search results were biased to exclude his website TheCoastNews.com.
“Google’s search results express Google’s opinion on which websites are most likely to be helpful to the user in response to a query and are thus fully protected by the First Amendment”, The Guardian reports.
Google’s lawyers defended the case by saying that basically, Google has a right to its own opinion.
This is the first ruling since 2007, when search results were defined as free speech.
The case was labelled a “slapp” (strategic lawsuit against public participation), which is often seen as an attempt of censorship. Judge Goldsmith's decision is in hard contrast to European regulators, which are investigating Google for allegedly being anti-competitive, and for highlighting its own services over rivals.
The European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, told a parliament hearing “The issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps.”