Fifth Circuit OK’s Mississippi Probe of Google

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – The Fifth Circuit on Friday overturned a federal injunction that stopped Mississippi’s attorney general from investigating whether Google may be liable for aiding child predators and vendors of illegal goods.
     Attorney General Jim Hood began investigating in 2012, “believ(ing) that Internet giant Google may be liable under state law for facilitating dangerous and unlawful activity through its online platforms,” Fifth Circuit Judge Stephen Higginson wrote for the three-judge panel.
     Google sought an injunction in Jackson, Miss. after Hood subpoenaed information about Google’s policies on Internet searches for child pornography, illegal drug sales and copyright infringement.
     U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate put the investigation on hold in March 2015 after finding that the 79-page subpoena may chill online speech .
     Child-protection nonprofits supporting Hood told Wingate that the subpoena was based on the reasonable suspicion that “Google’s services are being used to facilitate distribution of unlawful content and products, and that Google may be profiting from this illegal activity.”
     Hood said in the subpoena there were reasonable grounds to believe that Google may have violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
     But Google, supported by Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital-rights organizations, argued that the subpoena likely infringed on Internet users’ free-speech and equal protection rights, and violated the Communications Decency Act and the Copyright Act.
     The Fifth Circuit vacated the injunction Friday “on a number of threshold grounds,” while “(e)xpressing no opinion on the merits.”
     “We conclude that the district court erred in granting injunctive relief because neither the issuance of the non-self-executing administrative subpoena nor the possibility of some future enforcement action created an imminent threat of irreparable injury ripe for adjudication,” Higginson wrote. “We express no opinion on the reasonableness of the subpoena or on whether the conduct discussed in the parties’ briefs could be held actionable consistent with federal law. The district court’s preliminary injunction is VACATED, and this case is REMANDED with instructions to dismiss.”
     Also on the panel were Chief Judge Carl Stewart and Judge Carolyn Dineen King.

%d bloggers like this: