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Google Search Results Are Free Speech in the U.S.

A court in San Francisco ruled last week that Google search results are protected by free speech laws under the First Amendment, which means that the company can order its search results any way it sees fit.

The lawsuit was brought by a website called CoastNews, which covers culture and dining in the San Francisco Bay Area (not to be confused with The Coast News, a weekly newspaper in San Diego County). The site's owner, Louis Martin argued that Google was placing CoastNews further down in search rankings, while it was at the top of the queue in Bing and Yahoo searches.

Related: 5 Google Results That Can Destroy Your Career

Google then filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which under California state law, can move to throw out lawsuits that have the intent to suppress free speech.

In a ruling last week, Judge Ernest Goldsmith said Google could arrange its search results however it wants, as it "met its burden of showing that the claims asserted against it arise from constitutionally protected activity."  The one-paragraph decision was posted here by Ars Technica.

Related: Enforcing Your 'Right to Be Forgotten' May Get You Remembered

While the First Amendment laws make Google's search results a largely hands off affair in the U.S., governing bodies in Europe have taken a more aggressive tack in regulating the tech giant.

In addition to launching an ongoing anti-trust investigation into the company's business practices, European officials ordered Google to delete "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" search results upon the request of EU citizens. Additionally, a French court ruled that Google France has to pay daily fines of 1,000 euros ($1,254) until the given search results are removed from Google's entire "global network." 

Related: People Have a 'Right to Be Forgotten,' Top EU Court Tells Google

Edition: December 2016

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