July 03, 2006

Kinderstart.com v. Google

The Kinderstart.com v. Google search-ranking court case progressed recently:

The search giant is being sued in California by a parenting website which claims it lost most of its traffic when its ranking dropped to zero. The site, Kinderstart.com, claims that it was downgraded because it is a competitor to Google. A motion by Google to dismiss the case was heard in California last Friday, where Kinderstart argued that it competed with Google because it also offers a search facility on its site.

Now, it is, err, my opinion, that Kinderstart.com was downgraded because the site looks like a spam-type directory, not because "it is a competitor to Google" (if it's a competitor, Google has nothing to worry about ...). But Kinderstart.com is riding the wave of Googlenoia, so it's getting a lot of coverage.

When Google defended its right to rank sites as an "opinion", in legal terms, it used the word "subjective", which is causing some discussion over the subjective meaning of "subjective". In English, though, the key part was that they're saying that if they think you're playing web-spam games, it's their right to throw you out of the search rankings with no notice or explanation, notwithstanding whatever else may be in their ranking algorithm. While that's not exactly a nice thing to do, it does seem to be a pretty solid legal right.

See also Eric Goldman for some primary sources

Update: More source documents from Eric Goldman

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on July 03, 2006 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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I think an interesting aspect of this is whether automated decisions can be considered subjective, opinion, speech... It's interesting juridically and philosophically, since automated systems are vecariously expressing what their programmers would express in their turn.

Posted by: David at July 8, 2006 02:07 AM