District Court Holds Google Search Results Protected By First Amendment

On February 8, 2017, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati secured a summary judgment for Google in a case brought by online publishing company e-ventures Worldwide, LLC, alleging unfair competition based on Google's removal of e-ventures' websites from Google's search results. Judge Paul Magnuson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, sitting by designation in the Middle District of Florida, held that Google was immune from liability because the First Amendment protects Google's decisions about what websites to remove from its search results, reasoning that these "are the same decisions by a newspaper editor regarding which content to publish, which article belongs on the front page, and which article is unworthy of publication."

In adopting a broad reading of Google's right to manage its search results, the court rejected the plaintiff's argument regarding alleged anticompetitive motives: "The First Amendment protects these decisions, whether they are fair or unfair, or motivated by profit or altruism." The court moreover agreed that the plaintiff's "websites were in violation of Google's guidelines" that prohibit search engine manipulation or "webspam." The case is e-ventures Worldwide, LLC v. Google Inc., No. 2:14-cv-646 (M.D. Fla.).

The WSGR team representing Google in the matter included partners Brian Willen, David Kramer, and John Flynn, as well as associates Eli Richlin, Lauren Gallo White, Peter Holm, Josh Baskin, and Sara Rowe.

For more information, please refer to the court's opinion.