Yesterday at Search Engine Land I reported Search Engines Do Not Have To Display All Ads Says Court based on Eric Goldman's post named Search Engines Defeat "Must-Carry" Lawsuit--Langdon v. Google.
In short, a court ruled that Google and other search engines do not have to carry any ad submitted to them. Specifically, Christopher Langdon was upset with a company or two and wanted to buy ads to complain about them (i.e. a "griper") but Google denied him. They would not approve his ads. So he took Google to court, and the judge ruled in favor of Google saying, "some of his [Langdon] claims "specious" and "frivolous." Eric them noted three things we can pull from this case:
(1) The First Amendment gives search engines the right to reject any ad they want. (2) "Search engine decisions to reject ads is protected by 47 USC 230(c)(2) as a legitimate decision to filter "otherwise objectionable" content." (3) "Search engines aren't state actors and are not bound by the First Amendment, so they do not deprive advertisers (such as Langdon) of First Amendment rights by rejecting their advertising."
But these are ads, flip it around to the free/organic results and Google has often denied to remove such listings. Why? Because they want their algorithms to handle it. Heck, there is a profession to handle such organic results named reputation management.
A WebmasterWorld thread has a nice amount of discussion on the ruling, so here are a few quotes:
Seems logocal to me. Otherwise an accountancy search engine (or directory) could be sued for not listing a shoe shop. That would be absurd.
I'm not constitutional scholar, but doesn't the first amendment keep the Government from preventing free speach? I don't think it applies to individuals or business.
First amendment is clearly a restriction/limitation on government powers. Google, despite all their power, is not the government.
This case, OTOH, is quite different to the questions about whether the SE's should censor listings out of their organic SERP's. The bar for censorship should be (and is) much, much higher in that arena. Though personally, I don't think it's high enough, given the arbitrary nauture of some of the decisions from the major SE's WRT listings they are unwilling to display, relating to both content and region.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.