Cutts: Don't Bother Suing Us For Negative Search Results

Jun 13, 2012 • 9:18 am | comments (21) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Other Google Topics

sueMatt Cutts, the lead of the search spam team, posted in a Hacker News thread that is probably doesn't make sense to sue Google over negative results.

He is responding to post named Panda loss as libel where someone considered starting a company to just sue over negative search results. Here is the tweet with the idea:

He wouldn't be the first person who would like to do so. But would it work? Google's Matt Cutts says likely not.

Matt said in the thread, it has been tried at least two times and both times Google won:

On the search engine side, there's been a couple of solid court decisions in the United States:

- In SearchKing vs. Google, a company sued because it didn't like its rankings/PageRank. SearchKing had been selling links that passed PageRank, which violates Google's quality guidelines. The court determined that "PageRanks are opinions - opinions of the significance of particular web sites as they correspond to a search query. Other search engines express different opinions, as each search engine's method of determining relative significance is unique. The Court simply finds there is no conceivable way to prove that the relative significance assigned to a given web site is false." As a result, Google was entitled to "full constitutional protection" for its opinions.

- In vs. Google, a company sued Google over a lower ranking. The judge not only dismissed that case, he allowed sanctions against KinderStart's counsel for making various claims (like Google skewing results for political/religious reasons) that couldn't be proven. So in the U.S., we have a couple very nice court cases that establish that search engine rankings are opinions and protected speech. If someone tried to sue over a set of search results, I believe they would find that a very hard case to make.

Of course, things like libel and defamation apply online as well as offline.

As you see, Matt says that if someone says something libel or defamatory, of course you can sue that person directly. But to sue Google over ranking that content, it is probably a waste of your time and money.

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for sue yes or no image

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06/13/2012 01:27 pm

USA - the only country in which algorithm is an "opinion".


06/13/2012 01:40 pm

Did you sue Google out of USA and won ?? )


06/13/2012 01:49 pm

That tweet sure didn't read that it was about suing Google. It reads like it was about suing the company that takes your spot.


06/13/2012 01:51 pm

Oh let me think:

Barry Schwartz

06/13/2012 01:52 pm

I know, I said that.


06/13/2012 01:55 pm

Google's Algorithm. Period. Don't like it? Get out of the game.


06/13/2012 01:59 pm

Glad Matt Cutts said this. Sick and tired of all the SEO-losers who are too dumb, too unskilled, too unworthy to be SEOs the right way so they complain about Google. Between this "foog" tweeter and Jeffrey Katz, and all the occupiers' protests and democrats' class warfare, this entitlement mentality is sickening. Google owes you nothing. Period. Don't like the game? Get out. You can advertise by email, print, TV, display, social, etc. Oh, want free listings? Well then, play by the game. Play the game or shut up.


06/13/2012 02:21 pm

They used to try and sue in Texas.. we fixed that.. we have SEOs here that talk to the AG and Gov. =) No more wasting of the taxpayer dollar to sue Google for bonehead reasons. =)


06/13/2012 02:27 pm

Sure, take your time to think. Hopefully you'll see difference between " Negative Search Results " and " unfair competition ".


06/13/2012 02:32 pm

Google is Internet. Period. Don't like it? Go offline.


06/13/2012 02:34 pm

Did you sue Google out of USA and won ?? Hopefully you see that I've just answered your imprecise question.


06/13/2012 03:45 pm

Next time read title of the article. It will help you to understand the topic.

Alireza Sefati

06/13/2012 05:07 pm

Can't sue Google for their SERPS but can sue them for monopoly and many other things just need more educated lawyers. Hm..that give me ideas to go to law school

Liv Jones

06/13/2012 06:42 pm

Google has far more to worry about than us petty Webmistresses and masters. The EU alone is probably going to rip them a new one, and we can expect those outcomes to filter down into the lowly USA. The higher standard always takes precedence in business, and that usually comes from the E.U. these days.

Lord of SEO

06/14/2012 04:05 am

bollocks both cases were shite anyway a proper case should have them show code from their algos


06/14/2012 05:03 am

Google is allowed to have it's opinion. At the moment Google's opinion is squeeze every last dime out of the above the fold results as possible. That opinion will probably undo Google faster than any law suit ever could. Yes people love to shop but people hate ads!

Michael Roberts

06/14/2012 07:31 am

I believe that Google has an algorithm within its algorithm that I call “the humiliation algorithm”. I made a short video about my hypothesis here: (Now watch my latest troll with the initials DM reply)

Bob Massa

06/14/2012 08:06 am

well, as sometimes happens with Google comments, >In SearchKing vs. Google, a company sued because it didn't like its rankings/< is exactly accurate. #1. SK did NOT sue, it filed for a preliminary injunction #2. It did not file because it didnt like its rankings. It filed because it was actually the PR Ad Network that was offering to broker links but google admittedly adjusted the page rank of about 7,000 cusomters of SearchKing's that had nothing to do with links t all and that was wrong. #3. The injunction was denied NOT because the court found google right on all four counts rather becasue SK failed to prove financial loses as a direct result of its page rank being manually adjusted #4. The court gave permission to SK to pursue a lawsuit. Anyone seriously considering a suit against any search engine should probably start by reading the actual ruling​SearchKing.pd and maybe the lawmeme post here


06/14/2012 08:49 am

>Google owes you nothing. Period< ive read this same statement literally hundreds of times over this last decade and each time I think, "why would any reasonable person say such a thing when it is obviously wrong. (can you find the subjective term in that last sentence?) It is wrong because google is a legally licensed American business and as such it is bound by American laws. Some of those laws have to do with things like restraint or trade and attempting to monopolize markets. They owe all of us the right to expect them to be held to legal standards and not break those laws. Now, what if SearchKing built a script that was pretty handy and people started downloading it. BUT in the 129 paragraphs of TOS , it told you that by taking this free software, now SK had access to all your emails, all your analytics, all your private assets like pricing, client lists, strategies, debts, inventory levets etc BUT we do tell you that you have the ABILITY to opt out, (not in), by clicking this links, reading that, clicking there, filling this out and then YOU COULD ASSUME, I either didnt have access or at least wouldnt use it then I went out and started making deals with a lot of the major players in hundreds,maybe thousands of hi margin industries like home loans, insurance, travel, pharmaceuticals and even industries like AC repair, and watch repair. THEN on my search engine, I form an OPINION that the results that serve my end users best just happen to be a lot of the companies that happen to have a financial relationship with me. BUT there are people out there who spend all their time understanding what my objective algorithm wants to determine quality and they get paid full time + to place their clients in a competitive position when someone is trying to find information that my client provides BUT my opinion is those people are filthy nasty spammers who need to be subjectively dealt with as they are endangering the quality of the experience of the end user. Do you think you would feel like it was my free program so I take any information I want. Its my search engine so I OWE no one nothing and I can do what I want. Would you then go tell your friends, hey, it you don't like it get offline? Somehow I doubt it. Im not the prettiest brick in the sidewalk so maybe im missing something but I dont see the distinction and I dont think anyone else really does either. unless of course they have their own agenda. I would guess at least for a while, Microsoft must have felt the same way.

Rob Abdul

06/14/2012 11:50 am

Some folks have nothing better to do. Only in the U.S there is a culture of suing. Folks like to make headlines by taking on a global brand like Google. Even if their case is thrown out; the press and exposure received must generate lots of "Direct" traffic. Majority of SEO is common-sense with a little technical magic. My Rant: Some folk spend 30 minutes on Google looking at SEO articles and then become so called SEO Experts, pumping out crap. Write good content, and Googlebot will notice you. There is no secret formula.


06/19/2012 02:59 pm

Thanks for the share. It is really interesting to know new methods and techniques in-order to make your product valuable. Just keep on posting nice articles like this.

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