Google Asks American Court to Protect its First Amendment Rights from Canadian Ruling

AP Photo/Jens Meyer
AP Photo/Jens Meyer

Google has filed a lawsuit in California, contesting the Supreme Court of Canada’s license to force them to de-list websites.

Google is asking the California court to “declare that the rights established by the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act are not merely theoretical,” in response to an order from the Supreme Court of Canada to de-list all instances of suspected fraudulent company Datalink.

Google has already de-indexed 343 Datalink sites from the Google Canada branch of its search engine by the early days of 2013, in cooperation with demands made by Vancouver-based Equustek, from whom Datalink allegedly stole trade secrets and relabeled products.

Not content with its actions, Equustek is pushing for Google to be forced to completely de-list Datalink from its search engine worldwide, rather than limit itself to the Canada-specific A court in British Columbia granted that demand, which was further upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In response, Google has asked the U.S. court to uphold its right to “[publish] within the United States search result information about the contents of the internet.” They assert that right under both the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts them from liability for the actions of most users.

In their words, “the Canadian order is repugnant to those rights, and the order violates principles of international comity, particularly since the Canadian plaintiffs never established any violation of their rights under U.S. law.” And additionally, that “the Canadian Order is further repugnant to United States public policy because it issued an injunction against Google, an innocent non-party, merely for the sake of ‘convenience.'”

Furthermore, forcing Google to edit access to content based on the order of a single foreign government creates a precedent that they must follow the restrictions of any government that objects to certain search results. In an e-mailed statement to Ars Technica, Google lawyer David Price said:

We’re taking this court action to defend the legal principle that one country shouldn’t be able to decide what information people in other countries can access online. Undermining this core principle inevitably leads to a world where Internet users are subject to the most restrictive content limitations from every country.

Staunch advocates for freedom of speech have taken a decisive stand with Google on their complaints. Among them, The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Human Rights Watch.

In all of this, only Google has been targeted as the “determinative player in allowing harm to occur.” Yahoo and Bing have received no such orders, and continue to freely list all Datalink sites.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.