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Google PageRank Suit Dismissed 97

Posted by Zonk
from the start-that dept.
idobi writes to mention a C|Net article covering the dismissal of the Google page ranking case. Despite the loss, KinderStart also saw the ruling as a victory. The judge left the door open for a refiling, and the company is seeking to bring the suit to class-action status. Assistant professor of law at Marquette University Law School Eric Goldman comments in the article: "Frankly, there are very few novel or surprising aspects of this ruling. For example, the judge rejected the claim that Google was a state actor, but this ruling is entirely consistent with the dozen or so precedents involving private Internet companies ... The other rulings seemed very sensible and fairly predictable from the complaint. It's pretty clear that the judge thinks that some of KinderStart's claims have no chance even with repleading, but the judge apparently has decided to give KinderStart that chance rather than just shutting the door."
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Google PageRank Suit Dismissed

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  • Wtf? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Poromenos1 (830658) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:34PM (#15719734) Homepage
    So they wanted Google to pay them because they sucked? If it was like that, then every sucky blog writer could sue them for cash.

    By the way, the "open for refiling" thing means that they can sue again if they thing Google MANUALLY changed the ranking, it's not really relevant to the case.
  • Re:Wtf? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:40PM (#15719792) Homepage Journal
    By the way, the "open for refiling" thing means that they can sue again if they thing Google MANUALLY changed the ranking, it's not really relevant to the case.

    Even then, though, why shouldn't they be free to manually change the ranking if they wanted to? It's their wholly-owned database, so is there any reason they should be kept from altering their own data?

  • by stoanhart (876182) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:46PM (#15719862)
    Maybe they don't realise that Google's engine is theirs. It belongs to them, they made it. There is no right to be on the list at all. If google wants to, they can put anybody anywhere they want. They could put a page to the bottom manually just for not liking someone if they wanted to. This would hurt their credibility, and thus themselves, so they won't. But they can if they want to.

    If I was google, I would permanently ban them.

  • Reason? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:50PM (#15719910) Homepage
    The only way KinderStart's claims have a chance in hell is if they can claim that they were unfairly discriminated against, which I think is unlikely. However this possibility is why the judge let them re-file I suspect, contrary to the claims of other posters that "Google owns their search engine so they can do whatever they want with it". Even if you own something there are limitations under the law how you use it / run your establishment, and it is possible for Google to run afoul of them.
  • by FractalZone (950570) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:52PM (#15719929) Homepage
    ...sue, and sue again!

    That is what the rabid anti-smokers and greedy trial lawyers did to the tobacco companies.

    There is a problem with a system where plaintiffs and keep flooding the courts with cases against any person or organization with deep pockets, hoping to strike it rich by eventually getting lucky in some particular venue. This is where a "loser pays" system would have some real merit.

    I am not saying that different people shouldn't be able to file separate (in time and/or location) lawsuits against a particualr party on essentially the same grounds, but that the number of such suits out to be finite, preferably small, before the burden of court costs and legal fees starts to shift over to plaintiffs.

    Yeah, that's very fuzzy, but the idea seems sound to me. Suing ought not to be a fishing expedition.
  • by jfengel (409917) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:52PM (#15719935) Homepage Journal
    The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit. It's equivalent to saying, out loud and deliberately, "You suck". He's saying that if they do it manually, that could be evidence for malice, which is a requirement for a defamation suit. (At least according to Wikipedia; IANAL.)

    I suspect that the judge wanted to leave the idea open, since it hadn't been explored completely and therefore he couldn't absolutely rule it out, but I doubt it would fly. First they have to show that malice, and I can't help but think that they'll have a hard time with that. They'd need somebody with inside knowledge of the decision process; the judge has pretty much said that the lower number is not in and of itself evidence of malice.

    I'm sure they've got something they'll throw at this, so I doubt it's the last time we've heard of them. I suspect from here it'll be:

    kinderstart: we have evidence

    Judge: no, you don't. Go away. You suck.

    kinderstart: We sue you! We sue you!

    And the great cycle of life begins again.
  • by KDR_11k (778916) on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:59PM (#15719978)
    Google can deindex pages at will but they claim their Pagerank is computed automatically and if they were to modify it that could be construed as faking survey data in order to defame an opponent. You can skew your surveys in any way you like but you cannot alter the numbers directly and still claim it is a survey.
  • by bowmanje (988214) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:05PM (#15720038)
    Of course you have to consider the flip side. If the loser must pay, the little guy may not bring a legitimate complaint to court for fear of going bankrupt with the court costs if he loses...
  • Blacklist (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:11PM (#15720080)
    Perhaps Google should blacklist them for attempting to manipulate their search results, albeit not through the usual means but rather the courts.
  • by rowama (907743) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:15PM (#15720114)
    ...the company's revenue from advertisements through Google's AdSense syndication program fell by more than 80 percent...

    I'm curious if they are still making a profit on AdSense syndication. If so, then the lawsuit seems even more ridiculous to me. It's like saying, "I could be making $10,000 off of you, but because I can't maintain an interesting website, I'm only making $2,000. I think I'll sue you for the rest."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:22PM (#15720156)
    The federal government didn't subsidize the construction of Google.
  • by fotbr (855184) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:22PM (#15720158) Journal
    Except that for the most part, the TAXPAYER paid for the copper and fiber to be installed in the first place, through granting of "easments" and tax breaks for "infrastructure improvements", not to mention the whole pesky group of regulations concerning "common carriers".

    If we, the taxpayers, hadn't paid for the phone networks in the first place, I would have absolutely no complaints about AT&T or SBC or whomever charging whatever they'd like for data crossing their wires.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:31PM (#15720220) Homepage Journal
    The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit. It's equivalent to saying, out loud and deliberately, "You suck".

    I suppose I can see that from a legal standpoint. Still, what's wrong with Google saying "they suck" when specifically asked? It seems like the difference between me standing on a corner shouting "kinderstart is worthless" and saying the same thing in response to someone asking me what I thought of them. Again, ignoring the legal aspects (IANAL), is the latter really defamation?

  • by MLease (652529) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:47PM (#15720344)
    Of course you have to consider the flip side. If the loser must pay, the little guy may not bring a legitimate complaint to court for fear of going bankrupt with the court costs if he loses...

    That is an excellent point, and the reason I personally have trouble with the "loser pays" idea. I like the idea of discouraging frivolous suits, but not at the expense of discouraging legitimate ones; negligence and malfeasance should be punished. What I'd like to do is set up a panel to review cases that are dismissed, and award costs to the winner if the panel finds that the suit was indeed frivolous. But maybe I'm just dreaming.

    -Mike
  • Rank and rating? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:51PM (#15720366) Journal
    The decision suggests that, if properly alleged, Google may be defaming a whole class of Web sites sacked with a '0' PageRank,

    Isn't this something like MacDonalds sueing "Fine Cuisine Ratings Inc" because they're at the bottom of the charts?
  • Re:Wtf? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rgmoore (133276) * <glandauer@charter.net> on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:19PM (#15720583) Homepage
    Even then, though, why shouldn't they be free to manually change the ranking if they wanted to?

    Because they claim that Page Rank is an automated, objective measure of a site's relevance. If it turns out that they're manually tweaking Page Ranks in a way that they're not telling people about, they might be guilty of false advertizing. I personally think that's a stretch, but then again, IANAL, so somebody who is might not agree.

  • by Wavicle (181176) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:27PM (#15720646)
    This is exactly what I suspected (though I don't care to visit the page). Google has a history of giving web sites that have no real content and artificially attempt to manipulate their ranking a 0 page rank. These places do nothing more than leech off of Google and it seems to me it would be in Google's business interest to give them a 0 page rank. What drives people to Google is the quality of the search results.

    If most searches turned up link farms, nobody would use Google. Google has every right to protect the quality of its product (search results).
  • Re:Wtf? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by capnchicken (664317) on Friday July 14, 2006 @02:54PM (#15720805)
    I don't know why, but there seems to be the mindset these days of some new "Right to make a profit". A bit offtopic, but you see the same kind of attitude from the **AA and the like. I understand that you need to make sound business decisions, and making a profit is a business's entire purpose, but those with shakey business models always like to point the finger at everybody else, because they're not getting theirs and it can't be their fault!
  • by tinkerghost (944862) on Friday July 14, 2006 @03:23PM (#15721005) Homepage
    Depends on whether a court would find them to have monopolistic control over a vital resource or not.
    I doubt that any court could find that. The resource is the data itself - the link crossover frequency, the traffic patterns, etc - which is free for anyone with a spider. You don't need Google to get that information, it's just a crapload easier to use them rather than do it yourself.
    In order to show Google as a monopoly, you would have to show that Google's possesion of the data prevents anyone else from obtaining it (telco contract model), or that Google's predominance in the marketplace renders doing business with anyone else irrelivant (MS, US oil model).
    The problem is that Google doesn't do business with kinderstart, or for any of the pages they rank. Google does business with advertisers, and the advertising market is thriving.
    Also, "These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites)." not sure how long that's been there, but it's part of the guidelines that they post on their site. Sort of says they reserve the right to drop you in the bit bucket if they feel you're trying to game them.

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