Google's Search Engine Results Are Free Speech And I Don't Care

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussion' started by CatfishRivers, May 29, 2012.

  1. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

    Apr 5, 2011
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    Google's search engine results are free speech and I don't care | ZDNet (click for full article)

    By Steven Shaw | May 29, 2012, 4:00am PDT

    Summary: Think the United States government has a chance in hell of beating Google's legal team? Think again.

    Have you heard: the latest and greatest tech-law debate concerns whether Google search results are protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution?

    Of course, they are. Maybe if those results were just automatically generated page rankings they wouldn't be. But, since actual people at Google manipulate the results - exactly how and how much Google won't say - the content is editorial in nature and is therefore as protected by the First Amendment as the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

    In case you're interested in the full battery of legal arguments, you're free to endure the recent white paper commissioned by Google on the subject. In 27 pages, the law professor Eugene Volokh, who is too smart to be writing commercial white papers, makes the case for search engine results as protected speech so convincingly that there's little point in trying to refute him. Yes, he was paid by Google's law firm to write it. Yes, the arguments are still decisive.

    Why is the status of search-engine results important? Google is laying the legal foundations for an antitrust defense that probably won't matter. Free speech or no, the FTC is still going to try to break up monopolies, and when Google triumphs over the FTC it will be a victory of attrition not the Constitution.

    Perhaps more realistically, when know-nothing legislators try to force Google to make its search results more "fair," a First Amendment line of argument may come in handy. Later, the same arguments may undermine Google when it argues that it's just delivering non-judgmental search results, but I'm sure they'll try to maintain both positions.

    In the end, though, I don't really care whether Google search results are protected speech or not, and I think the whole discussion is a waste of time. Here's why:

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