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Lawsuit Against Google Dismissed 89

Posted by kdawson
from the and-a-pony dept.
Weather Storm writes in with news from PCWorld that a US District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Google by a company that accused them of manipulating search results for political and religious reasons and skewing results in favor of companies that compensate Google financially. The lawsuit (discussed on Slashdot last year) was filed by KinderStart, a parenting information Web site that claims it was illegally blocked from Google search results. The judge not only dismissed the lawsuit but granted a motion by Google to sanction KinderStart and one of its lawyers. Google can now seek "reasonable compensation" for attorney fees because KinderStart's lawyer filed claims that were factually baseless and did not perform an adequate investigation before filing the lawsuit.
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Lawsuit Against Google Dismissed

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  • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:03AM (#18476649)

    The lawsuit was filed by KinderStart, a parenting information Web site that claims it was illegally blocked from Google search results.
    So the judge ruled in Google's favor and decided they could seek damages against KinderStart . . . for acting like a bunch of babies.
  • Not far enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xigxag (167441) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:16AM (#18476707)
    So KinderStart's case was dismissed because they didn't have any evidence? All well and good, but I would've preferred a ruling that said even if they could substantiate their claims, that they were not entitled to any damages.

    I mean, so what if Google skews their search results? They aren't under any obligation to link to the whole web or to do so in an objective manner.
    • Re:Not far enough (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@xoxFREEBSDy.net minus bsd> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:42AM (#18476797) Homepage Journal
      Actually the judge's ruling went about as far as the judge was in a position to go.

      Kinderstart didn't have any claims that had merit, so there wasn't really a possibility of creating any new precedent or caselaw. They judge just tossed the whole thing out, and then as a bonus, said they were so ridiculously bad, that Kinderstart should have known not to bring such a steaming pile into the courtroom, in the first place.

      In order to 'go any further,' Kinderstart would have needed to have a claim with a modicum of merit, which they didn't.

      I guess maybe you can hope that someone smarter will sue Google for the same thing tomorrow, but I think they're probably just happy for the moment.
      • by BruceCage (882117) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @06:43AM (#18477313)
        Why doesn't Google just sue itself and set precedent?
      • ...there wasn't really a possibility of creating any new precedent or caselaw.

        Maybe it's just early in the morning, but I read that phrase as "creating any new precedent or coleslaw."

        Then I thought WTF? You mean the judge wanted to make salad out of KinderStart? Why not just give them their just desserts?

      • They judge just tossed the whole thing out, and then as a bonus, said they were so ridiculously bad, that Kinderstart should have known not to bring such a steaming pile into the courtroom, in the first place.

        How does this differ from the SCO case? It appears that this Kinderstart thing was in-and-out within a matter of several months, as no evidence was presented.

        No evidence has been presented in SCO yet, either, and it's dragging on for years.

        Does SCO just have better lawyers tha
        • by GigsVT (208848)
          How does this differ from the SCO case?

          Kinderstart isn't funded by MS.

          And SCO's lawyers are at least somewhat competent at making claims that could possibly have some merit, if they weren't complete fabrications.
    • by jrumney (197329)

      I mean, so what if Google skews their search results? They aren't under any obligation to link to the whole web or to do so in an objective manner.

      I think it would be good if there was an explicit exemption in copyright law for a site that did link to the whole web in an objective manner. It would put an end to the other type of suit that Google continually faces.

      • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @05:54AM (#18477127) Journal
        It would put an end to the other type of suit that Google continually faces.

        And it would put a bunch of lawyers out of work. What are you? Some kind of commie?
      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        Don't be ridiculous. It would do no such thing. It would open the floodgates to a slew of additional lawsuits alleging Google isn't "objective". At present Google has no such obligation.
        • by jrumney (197329)
          That is a suit that only needs to be defended once. Once Google is judged to be objective, they can use that as a precedent to have other cases dismissed quickly without going to trial.
    • by snitty (308387)
      The actual test would have been: that, taking everything in KinderStart's pleadings to be true, they still did not state a claim for which relief could be granted. Basically, no where is there anything that creates a duty for a company to make its searches fair.
  • by SRA8 (859587) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:23AM (#18476735)
    Skewing coverage and results? Imagine if the US News Media had to abide by such rules -- we wouldnt have 24hr coverage of the latest girl being kidnapped. Perhaps we could actually get news on world events, aside from that "World in 30 seconds" segment.
    • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @04:03AM (#18476855)
      Sure we'd have 24 hour coverage of girls being kidnapped. They'd just have to show other girls who aren't blond haired, blue eyed, attractive and from affluent families.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shatrat (855151)
      It would be more likely the opposite. We would have 24 hour coverage of Britney Spears' breakdowns and freak potatoes shaped like Elvis' head because nobody would want to air anything influential and possibly get in legal trouble.
      The media is inane enough, it doesn't need more help from people who 'know what is good for us'.
    • Imagine if the US News Media had to abide by such rules -- we wouldnt have 24hr coverage of the latest girl being kidnapped.

      No kidding. I'm sick and tired of such pointless news. We should focus on more important things -- like Britney's Hair [wikipedia.org].

      -Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

      • No kidding. I'm sick and tired of such pointless news. We should focus on more important things -- like Britney's Hair.
        *Sigh* Just goes to show how quickly real news is forgotten. What about the question of paternity for Anna Nicole Smith's child!? That still hasn't gone away you know!
        • *Sigh* Just goes to show how quickly real news is forgotten. What about the question of paternity for Anna Nicole Smith's child!? That still hasn't gone away you know!

          I was listening to some back Podcasts of the Penn Jillette Radio Show and one episode had Drew Carey on, who was lamenting the 'latest news' cycle and how as a celebrity he's expected to do press vignettes and have an opinion on everything. He advocated the "I have no idea, I don't care about that" approach. It almost seems culturally abhorr
    • Imagine if the US News Media had to abide by such rules

      I can easily imagine a system where the news media had to report on issues that the government wanted it to report on. Freedom of the press is for those commie "glasnost" whiners.

  • A Good Start (Score:2, Interesting)

    I'd like to see the same thing happen to the RIAA next.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by srussia (884021)
      Sorry, Good Start (TM) is already taken. That's what you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean.
  • by malkir (1031750) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:29AM (#18476753)
    I RTFA'd, and checking out KinderStart.com I noticed that KinderStart is just a search engine *for kids*, meaning that they remove things that they believe are not 'ok' for children to see...
    ...and their bitching about Google skewing their search results?
    • by Seumas (6865)
      The people at KinderStart (let's be honest - it's actually just some fat stay-at-home house frau with six kids) sure have a lot of balls. I mean, NAMBLA got in a lot of trouble for sending out news letters to members with rather detailed instruction guides on how to get away with child molestation. But to have an entire search engine that is just for kids?! That's just wrong and I demand that our politicians put a stop to this perverted sickness and these freakos so openly helping match child molestors with
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nacturation (646836)
      No kidding. Search KinderStart for "shit" [kinderstart.com] and it comes up with four results. And none of those actually have anything to do with shit! How skewed is that?
       
      • Lets see if we can "slashdot" this KinderStart thing. Everyone click that link, and/or write a script to hit it repeatedly.
    • by sydb (176695)
      I tried a few "dodgy" words and eventually enjoyed their results for "snuff" [kinderstart.com]. Big green tits!
  • Haha (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @03:38AM (#18476777)
    Fuck. [kinderstart.com] Can I sue them for removing search results?
    • by FeldBum (933176) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @04:27AM (#18476919) Homepage
      No, but Google can sue them. They even have evidence:

      http://www.kinderstart.com/cgi-bin/sqlsearch.cgi?p os=1&query=google&language=&advanced=&urlonly=&wit hid= [kinderstart.com]

      They have been removed from KinderStart's search engine, in violation of their first amendment right to free speech!
      • No, it would have been removed IN ACCORDANCE with their (KinderStart's) right to free speech.

        Just as you (in some countries) have a right to say what you want (within reason), you equally have a right to NOT say anything you want.

        Google didn't become as big as they are because they promised to be objective, but because their search algorithms return fairly reliable, useful results. Try this for example: Google 'kinderstart' and see how many results are related to the actual site, and how many are related t
        • by FeldBum (933176)
          Actually, I was employing a humor device known as sarcasm [wikipedia.org] to highlight the absurdity of the lawsuit brought by KinderStart. As for the KinderStart results, it's quite obvious they've been penalized. The publicity they generated has earned them backlinks from many reputable sources (including /.) but they are not enjoying that link power.
          • by Dun Malg (230075)

            Actually, I was employing a humor device known as sarcasm [wikipedia.org] to highlight the absurdity of the lawsuit brought by KinderStart.
            Yeah, I think the problem people are having is that in order for something to be recognized as humor, it actually has to be funny. It wasn't a very good joke.
      • They have been removed from KinderStart's search engine, in violation of their first amendment right to free speech!

        Note that KinderStart isn't too proud to show Google Ads, though.

        Frankly, if I were in Google's ad department, I'd be easing things like "meet sexy preteens!" into that particular rotation. After all, the site is supposed to be all about kids, right? Then surely the hyper-protective parents who'd visit would want to find more of them. KinderStart.com would be a perfect portal domain for

    • In the example above, if the word "sql" is found, it is counted as a match. Also, if the word "oracle" is found, it is counted as a match as well. What the hell kind of kids look for 'sql' and 'oracle' but don't know about Google/Yahoo? The whole instruction page looks like it was written by a CS major, with no idea of his target audience.
  • by Umuri (897961) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @04:04AM (#18476857)
    Judges are starting to make sense and get onto companies for being legal morons.... Where are they comming from and what are they putting in the water in that city?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Seumas (6865)
      Bill O'Reilly would call this judge a secularist-progressive activist legislator and demand his removal from the bench. Or something.
  • I never understood (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @04:05AM (#18476867) Homepage
    Why people feel that Google is obligated to do anything with their search results. They have the right to censor their search results however they like - their search results do not affect the existence of actual websites.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why people feel that Google is obligated to do anything with their search results. They have the right to censor their search results however they like - their search results do not affect the existence of actual websites.

      The bundling of IE with Windows didn't negate the existance of Netscape nor the ability to install it.
      Once a company reaches a certain level of dominance it then takes on additional scrutiny. Google has just about reached a point where it could control the ability for a commercial website

      • by madcow_bg (969477)

        Why people feel that Google is obligated to do anything with their search results. They have the right to censor their search results however they like - their search results do not affect the existence of actual websites.

        The bundling of IE with Windows didn't negate the existance of Netscape nor the ability to install it.
        Once a company reaches a certain level of dominance it then takes on additional scrutiny. Google has just about reached a point where it could control the ability for a commercial website to succeed. With that power, practices like changing search results based on how much money they receive could be seen as coercive.

        It is even more than that. I am sure there are docs and press releases from google inc that search results from google are machine-only, that can be seen as a pledge that they don't mess with them. If they do, that would be false advertisement and punishable by law.

        • by Chmcginn (201645)

          I am sure there are docs and press releases from google inc that search results from google are machine-only, that can be seen as a pledge that they don't mess with them.

          These facts are about as related as the color of my car & its make & model. (As in, they're kinda related, but no, not really.)

        • Actually, if you read those documents you'll see that while Google admits that most pages are machine indexed, they DO retain the option to manually mess with the system however they please. This ranges from 'tuning' their ranking system to manually removing sites if necessary. They do this mostly to attempt to at least control the link farm sites, which would render their service useless in short order if not controlled.

          It's the same reason as to why they keep their system secret - if the farmers had acc
    • IANAL. As long as Google automatically indexes all web pages and treats them the same, there is no problem. As soon as Google starts to manually prefer some pages and puts thought into creating a "new work" using the indexed pages it might become a copyright violation. Not sure about this though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cbhacking (979169)
      While Google certainly has the right to control their own results, they have a moral obligation not to abuse this power. Too many people - both web searchers and site owners - depend on it.

      Not to say that I agree with Kinderstart.com's reasoning, but they do have one: Google has become, in effect, the world's online navigation system. Being de-listed from Google (or even demoted; who wades through more than the first few pages of results unless they are looking for something specific?) is the WWW equivalent
      • by mike2R (721965)

        While Google certainly has the right to control their own results, they have a moral obligation not to abuse this power.

        While I kind of agree with you about a moral obligation, I think it is important that this is not misconstrued to be any sort of legal obligation.

        I depend on organic google traffic for a sizable proportion of my income, but I can't see how opening the door to making the search engine responsible for the business model of websites can be a good thing. If it's opened even a crack there wi

    • Asking theoretically;
                If a site is number 1 according to the algorithmic ranking engine, that says something about is place in world (or at list World Wide Web) opinion. Then the search company lowers the sites ranking standing for some reason (lets assume that this is because of the political views of the search company). Could the site make a claim that is was being slandered because it was not being ranked as the algorithmic ranking engine indicates?

      • by kryptkpr (180196)
        Could the site make a claim that is was being slandered because it was not being ranked as the algorithmic ranking engine indicates?

        No. The ranking engine is not a static entity. The rankings change all the time as they tweak the algorithm and it's parameters, and they have no obligation to either keep anything from changing or disclose exactly how they rank (since that is one of their major trade secrets).
  • Every time a lawsuit is dismissed, a lawyer's secretary breaks a nail.
  • If you search google for "kinderstart" now, the website doesn't even show up in the first 10 pages of hits.
  • by Electrik Kool Aid (1065730) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @06:28AM (#18477263)
    Is it just me or does having Google ads on your site http://kinderstart.com/ [kinderstart.com] while suing them just reek of bi-polar disorder?

    I thought the Reality Distortion Field only applied to Apple...

    • And on another note did you _see_ where the ads are about?

      - Frustrated by autism?

      - Overweight Children

      "Mom, are you frustrated with me, do you think I'm fat?"
    • It's no worse than suing Ford to try to force them to sell you police cruisers while in the midst of a class action lawsuit alleging that said cruisers are unsafe to the point of criminal negligence.
  • by tkrotchko (124118) * on Sunday March 25, 2007 @06:48AM (#18477339) Homepage
    The last line in the article:

          "All options are being explored. That's all that we are going to say at this point," Yu told news agency Reuters.

    I imagine those options probably include "running away" and "hope to god they don't sue us".
  • by Udo Schmitz (738216) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:33AM (#18477779) Journal
    Hey, Boies, Schiller and Flexner, did you hear that? It's the sound of the Nazgûl sharpening their swords.
  • I noticed two main things in that license text:

    You can't remove any copyright, patent, or atribution notices. Kind of like the dreaded BSD advertising clause, in that if someone puts "Parts written by 1337 h4xx0rz" in the output of the program, you have to leave it there. Repeat ad nauseum for every contributor that jumps on the bandwagon, and things could get... unaesthetic.

    They use almost the exact same patent control system as the GPLv3. If a program contains patented code, you're granted permissi

  • We should slaughter these parental groups like the Jedi.

  • "If we can't sue them and get the money all at once, we'll use google adsense and get it back 10 cents at a time!"
  • Ironically, KinderStart's "news" section, KinderToday [kinderstart.com], has a design patterned after Slashdot, powered by Zope, and set up by a noobie [kinderstart.com].
  • This was a decision on the filed amended claims from a lawsuit decided last July in Google's favor. I'm rather impressed with the KinderStart attorney, Gregory Yu, but it takes two citations to show it. First, an Out-Law dot com article, after describing how the judge pummelled the lawsuit for the second time, decided to pound a bit upon Mr. Yu too:

    Judge Jeremy Fogel of the US District Court for the Northern District of California threw the case out, saying that KinderStart had been given a second chance

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