Google-Backed Scholar: Search Results Protected by the First Amendment
Posted in: Censorship at 10/05/2012 15:24
In a Google-funded report on the constitutional rights of an Internet search, UCLA law professor -- and blogger -- Eugene Volokh makes a lofty claim about the legal rights of any given Google search: The weight, placement, and even omission of search results deserve the same free speech protection as the articles on the front page of The New York Times. As such, Google deserves protection against all those pesky anti-trust accusations that people have been throwing at them. If you think these ideas are a little bit hard to swallow, read on. It does make a little bit of sense.
Volokh argues for the First Amendment rights of search results on three grounds. First, search results "convey information that the search engine company has itself prepared or provided (such as information about places appearing in Google Places)," and second, "they direct users to material created by others." Finally, and this is the clincher, "search engines select and sort the results" so that they're most valuable to the users. This "editorial judgment," he says, is comparable to The Times picking and choosing which stories to run in the daily paper or points of view to take in an editorial. In other words, Google search results, in their own unique way, are like little opinion pieces.