September 20, 2020

No Injunction for SearchKing

The judge in the SearchKing v. Google case has denied SearchKing’s request for a preliminary injunction. (See the bottom of this posting for background on the case.) James Grimmelmann at LawMeme analyzes the ruling. The court ruled that Google’s page rankings are opinions and so are protected by the First Amendment.

It’s interesting that the court found the page rankings to be opinions, even though they are generated automatically by a computer algorithm. In other words, page rankings don’t necessarily reflect the judgment of any person or group of people (at least not directly), except in the metaphysical sense that Google’s algorithm extracts the collective judgment of all of the webpage authors in the world.

A person identifying him/herself as a lawyer for SearchKing comments on the LawMeme site:

As Search King’s attorney, I can tell you a Rule 59 Motion to Alter Judgment was filed along with Search King’s Response to the Motion to Dismiss. In those pleadings we show the Court Google has a patent on PageRank. It also has been presented by its “inventors” as truly objective. (how does one “invent” an opinion?) If Google continues on its path of First Amendment protected opinion, there could be objections to its patent filed. Something to ponder….

It seems to me perfectly consistent to say something is an opinion and that it was arrived at by an objective procedure. Anyway, isn’t SearchKing’s whole case predicated on the claim that Google is not treating SearchKing objectively?

[Background on the SearchKing case: SearchKing sells a service that claims to raise people’s page rankings on the Google search engine. Google adjusted their page ranking algorithm to demote SearchKing’s pages. SearchKing sued Google, asking the court to grant a preliminary injunction requiring Google to restore the page rankings of SearchKing’s pages. The judge just denied that request. Google’s motion to dismiss is apparently next on the agenda.]