Google Must Face Claims on Search Removals

     FORT MYERS, Fla. (CN) — A federal judge denied an attempt by Google to shut down a lawsuit claiming the tech giant committed unfair trade practices by removing a company’s websites from search results.
     E-Ventures Worldwide is an online product review and search engine optimization company. It claims Google shut down 365 of its websites for allegedly being “pure spam,” when they were not actually spam.
     “Pure spam” means that a company is using aggressive techniques that are outside Google’s guidelines, according to court records.
     E-Ventures alleges “Google has an anti-competitive, economic motivation to eliminate the visibility of E-ventures’ websites on its search engine results” because E-Ventures publishes information online to assist third parties in getting increased website visibility, and Google does the same.
     “As a result of Google’s removal of E-ventures’ websites, E-ventures’ websites could not be located on Google.com, the world’s most widely used search engine,” causing irreparable harm to E-Ventures, the company claims.
     E-Ventures said it initially tried to contact Google to fix the problem but no one responded. E-Ventures then sued, alleging unfair competition under the Lanham Act, violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, defamation and tortious interference with business relationships.
     The plaintiff’s second amended complaint alleges that eight public statements made by Google about its removal policy were “false, deceptive, and misleading because they are inconsistent with what Google did to plaintiff.”
     Google motioned to dismiss the complaint, saying the plaintiff’s claims are barred by the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which says that, “[N]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
     The purpose of the CDA is to establish “federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service.”
     U.S. District Judge John Steele dismissed Google’s motion on May 12.
     “While the CDA defense may properly be considered if it is apparent from the face of the complaint, that is not the situation in this case,” Steele wrote in a 28-page complaint. “Here, plaintiff has included allegations within its second amended complaint that Google failed to act in good faith when removing its websites from Google’s search results.”
     Steele found that E-Ventures’ lawsuit “contains allegations sufficient to overcome Google’s defense that its actions were protected editorial decisions—namely that Google’s actions were based upon anti-competitive, punitive reasons.”
     “We are pleased with the court’s thoughtful analysis and decision,” E-Ventures’ attorney, Alexis Arena of Philadelphia-based Flaster Greenberg, said in a statement. “E-ventures brought this action as a last resort. E-ventures did not understand why some of its websites were removed from Google’s search results and could not determine why it was being targeted. We believe that this decision is an important step towards greater transparency and a just resolution of this action.”
     A Google attorney told Courthouse News that they are “not at liberty to make any comment about the case.”

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