Ohio Court Rules Google May Be Designated a Common Carrier

Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Chrome, speaks at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O, in San Francisco on 28 June 2012
KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GettyImages

A court in Ohio has ruled that a lawsuit from state Attorney General Dave Yost, which labels Google a common carrier subject to special regulations and litigation, can proceed, a significant development for Republicans seeking to hold tech companies accountable for bias and censorship.

Under U.S. law, common carriers are subject to strict regulations about who they can and cannot deny service to. Along with businesses categorized as public accommodations, they are expected to provide service to all paying customers on a non-discriminatory basis. Examples of common carriers in the U.S. include utilities and telecommunications companies.

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In his ruling, Judge James P. Schuck picked apart a common argument used by tech companies and their defenders: that requiring them to carry certain types of speech violates the First Amendment rights of companies.

“Courts have held that infringing on a private actor’s speech by requiring that actor to host another person’s speech does not always violate the First Amendment,” wrote Schuck in his ruling. “There are several examples in which private companies involved in mass communications were prohibited from censorship.”

Yost’s lawsuit argues that Google should not prioritize its own products and services in search results, claiming that consumers in Ohio are harmed by the tech giant’s anti-competitive behavior, which denies them the information needed to make informed choices.

The ruling comes at a time when Republican states are moving to regulate Big Tech censorship.

In Texas, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a new law passed by state Republicans that declares social media platforms akin to common carriers, and gives users a right to appeal censorship cases in court.

In a comment to Breitbart News, Prof. Adam Candeub, who led the Trump administration’s efforts to address tech censorship, and who authored an amicus brief in this case, welcomed the ruling.

“The Ohio State court wrote a well reasoned and intelligent opinion,” said Candeub, currently a tenured professor of law at Michigan State University, and a senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America.

“The court recognized that the First Amendment does not prevent reasonable anti-discrimination requirements on companies that hold themselves out as transmitters of speech.”

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election. Follow him on Twitter @LibertarianBlue

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