Mississippi Subpoena of Google Enjoined by Judge | Courthouse News Service
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Mississippi Subpoena of Google Enjoined by Judge

(CN) - Putting an investigation of Google on hold Monday, a federal judge found that Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's 79-page subpoena may chill online speech.

Google moved for the injunction in Jackson, Miss., this past December after Hood subpoenaed information about Google's policies with respect to Internet searches for child pornography and illegal drug sales.

Various child-protection nonprofits supporting Hood told the federal judge 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."

But Google, supported by amici Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital-rights organizations, argued that the subpoena likely infringed on internet users' free-speech and equal protection rights, as well as violated the Communications Decency Act and the Copyright Act.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate ruled Monday that Google has a "substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits," and that an injunction would further the public interest.

Google claimed in court that Hood was improperly influenced by major Hollywood studios trying to crack down on pirated movies, and asserted that a letter to Google bearing Hood's signature was "largely written by lawyers for the movie industry."

Indeed, some of the documents disclosed in North Korea's hack of Sony outlined a covert Hollywood campaign against Google, including encouraging state attorneys general to investigate the search engine giant while they provided legal support, Google said.

The EFF meanwhile argued in its brief that the Communications Decency Act "precludes a state official from saddling any Internet service provider with burdensome and costly discovery based primarily on the provider's refusal to monitor, take down, or block disfavored third-party content."

It also said that requiring Internet service providers to respond to subpoenas based on third-party conduct could be extraordinarily expensive, forcing online companies to potentially face litigation over comments on news stories or the posting of a home video.

Judge Wingate promised to issue a detailed opinion on the temporary injunction within 10 days.

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