Google Page Ranking Lawsuit Dismissed

Michael Hayes
SAN JOSE, Calif. — A federal judge has sided with Internet search engine Google, saying that Kinderstart’s suit, which had alleged that the company’s page ranking system constituted a violation of U.S. antitrust laws, did not have sufficient evidence to proceed.

Judge Jeremy Fogel decided to dismiss all nine counts of anti-trust allegations leveled at Google.

"The court concludes that Kinderstart has failed to allege any conduct on the part of Google that significantly threatens or harms competition,” Fogel said.

While Fogel’s decision marks a blow to the California-based company, he did leave open the possibility of further legal action, telling Kinderstart that it was entitled to amend and resubmit its case.

While the particulars of the case involve allegations of lost business by Kinderstart, an education-focused website, the case is notable because so much credence is given to Google page rankings.

In effect, Kinderstart argued that Google had no right to rank sites according to its own criteria because of the power the search firm has in the online marketplace. Kinderstart alleged that diminished page rankings, given Google’s “pervasive monopolistic practices,” lead to predatory pricing and decreased competition. The company also alleged that Google’s page ranking practice denied Kinderstart of its right to free speech.

While Kinderstart’s case failed on anti-trust grounds, its allegation that Google had restricted its right to free speech proved to be a double-edged sword as attorneys for the company successfully argued Google, too, had a free speech stake in its page rankings.

Attorneys for Google were able to convince Fogel that the company’s page rankings, despite the potentially negative impact on any website, were speech themselves, akin to opinions or reviews.

In the meantime, Kinderstart has begun looking for other companies adversely affected by Google’s page ranking system to join them in their amended suit. The company plans to file amended papers before September 29.