Ludicrous Ranking Lawsuits

June 7, 2006

Topics: Law.

One of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen this year was the lawsuit by Kinderstart against Google. This lawsuit was brought against Google over "downgrading its search-result ranking without reason or warning." Essentially, Kinderstart claims that Google committed a breach of covenant with Kinderstart by reducing their search-result rankings, resulting in a severe reduction in revenues.

The claim is, in my opinion, ludicrous. The idea that a search engine has a specific obligation to maintain a website’s position in its results is simply nonsense. The fundamental claims, including that Google infringed upon their freedom of speech and that they behaved in a monopolistic manner have little merit.

However, this post is not about that lawsuit. This is about a second lawsuit against Google on rankings. The fact that there has now been more than one lawsuit on this subject makes me eager to have a meaningful precedent laid down in court. Mark Roberts, the filer of the latest suit, voluntarily dismissed his own
complaint when threatened with an anti-SLAPP motion.

SLAPP(acronym)
A strategic lawsuit against public participation is a form of litigation filed by a large corporation or in some cases, an individual plaintiff to intimidate and silence a less powerful critic by so severely burdening them with the cost of a legal defense that they abandon their criticism. The acronym was coined in the 1980s by University of Colorado professors Penelope Canan and George W. Pring.
anti-SLAPP
A motion in defense of the right to freedom of speech

The Kinderstart case is continuing, however, and I can only hope that the judgement rendered is NOT in the favor of Kinderstart. If search engines become liable to the companies listed in their indexes to provide constant search results the entire system of internet search would break down. What search engine would attempt to index the entire internet if this simply meant they were liable to a lawsuit every time somebody’s rankings dropped?

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