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Google PageRank Suit Dismissed

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the start-that dept.

97

idobi writes to mention a C|Net article covering the dismissal of the Google page ranking case. Despite the loss, KinderStart also saw the ruling as a victory. The judge left the door open for a refiling, and the company is seeking to bring the suit to class-action status. Assistant professor of law at Marquette University Law School Eric Goldman comments in the article: "Frankly, there are very few novel or surprising aspects of this ruling. For example, the judge rejected the claim that Google was a state actor, but this ruling is entirely consistent with the dozen or so precedents involving private Internet companies ... The other rulings seemed very sensible and fairly predictable from the complaint. It's pretty clear that the judge thinks that some of KinderStart's claims have no chance even with repleading, but the judge apparently has decided to give KinderStart that chance rather than just shutting the door."

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97 comments

You can... (-1, Offtopic)

Kuxman (876286) | about 8 years ago | (#15719733)

You can always lock your doors and turn on the alarm system, but Windows is always open. I wonder if the DOJ is running Microsoft Judge 2000?

Wtf? (4, Insightful)

Poromenos1 (830658) | about 8 years ago | (#15719734)

So they wanted Google to pay them because they sucked? If it was like that, then every sucky blog writer could sue them for cash.

By the way, the "open for refiling" thing means that they can sue again if they thing Google MANUALLY changed the ranking, it's not really relevant to the case.

Re:Wtf? (2, Funny)

Saven Marek (739395) | about 8 years ago | (#15719769)

It's a nice bit of spin on their part I think. Their response is equivalent to a little annoying idiot at school going up to a big kid, threatening them, and coming back all beat up with "This is a victory! He only told me to piss off, not to piss off and not come back!"

Re:Wtf? (1)

outsider007 (115534) | about 8 years ago | (#15721692)

It actually is a victory when you think about it. They went from being completely unknown to being famous for sucking.

Re:Wtf? (3, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 8 years ago | (#15719792)

By the way, the "open for refiling" thing means that they can sue again if they thing Google MANUALLY changed the ranking, it's not really relevant to the case.

Even then, though, why shouldn't they be free to manually change the ranking if they wanted to? It's their wholly-owned database, so is there any reason they should be kept from altering their own data?

"You suck", says google (3, Insightful)

jfengel (409917) | about 8 years ago | (#15719935)

The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit. It's equivalent to saying, out loud and deliberately, "You suck". He's saying that if they do it manually, that could be evidence for malice, which is a requirement for a defamation suit. (At least according to Wikipedia; IANAL.)

I suspect that the judge wanted to leave the idea open, since it hadn't been explored completely and therefore he couldn't absolutely rule it out, but I doubt it would fly. First they have to show that malice, and I can't help but think that they'll have a hard time with that. They'd need somebody with inside knowledge of the decision process; the judge has pretty much said that the lower number is not in and of itself evidence of malice.

I'm sure they've got something they'll throw at this, so I doubt it's the last time we've heard of them. I suspect from here it'll be:

kinderstart: we have evidence

Judge: no, you don't. Go away. You suck.

kinderstart: We sue you! We sue you!

And the great cycle of life begins again.

Re:"You suck", says google (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 8 years ago | (#15720220)

The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit. It's equivalent to saying, out loud and deliberately, "You suck".

I suppose I can see that from a legal standpoint. Still, what's wrong with Google saying "they suck" when specifically asked? It seems like the difference between me standing on a corner shouting "kinderstart is worthless" and saying the same thing in response to someone asking me what I thought of them. Again, ignoring the legal aspects (IANAL), is the latter really defamation?

Re:"You suck", says google (2, Informative)

jfengel (409917) | about 8 years ago | (#15720335)

They'd have to show that Google is more than just saying "You suck". It's perfectly legal to express an opinion. Even if they can prove malice, their next step is to prove that the rank is a false statement of fact.

So the judge is saying that he's also not completely closed to that idea, either. Google would probably say that a page rank is a matter of opinion. They'll respond that it's not; it's an objective number, and you artifically lowered ours. Google will say that the number is a product of an algorithm, and that the algorithm encodes certain opinions that they have, including "You suck."

Or kinderstart could say, "Google makes a statement that our site is less 'good' than site X. We submit a bunch of paperwork to show our site is better. Therefore their statement is false, and we show malice with the artificial page-rank lowering."

I doubt the judge would buy that, either, if for no other reason than that it makes every single Google decision actionable. But he didn't want to rule it out completely with prejudice.

Re:"You suck", says google (1)

BobTheLawyer (692026) | about 8 years ago | (#15721754)

I think the distinction is that, if the pagerank wasn't lowered manually then it's impossible for kinderstart to show malice. If the pagerank was lowered manually then it is possible (i.e. if kinderstart can show the decision to lower the pagerank was malicious). But kinderstart still have a large hill to climb, as Google potentially had numerous good-faith reasons to lower the pagerank (if that is what they did).

Re:"You suck", says google (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 8 years ago | (#15722101)

I believe you're correct. I'm under the impression (and I haven't read the decision) that the judge wasn't exactly encouraging kinderstart to re-file. He was just pointing out to Google that there was still an avenue for this to keep coming back at them, even while he was rejecting kinderstart's original claim of antitrust.

Re:"You suck", says google (0, Flamebait)

GigsVT (208848) | about 8 years ago | (#15720228)

The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit.

It would be kind of nice if that argument worked.

If that precedent is set, smear campaign people like SPEWS that regularly report non-spammers as spammers for political ends could be slapped down.

Personally, I'm sick of being called a spammer just because of my choice in ISP. It hasn't caused any problems because no sane sysadmin would actually block based on SPEWS, but just the fact that they are spreading such misinformation about thousands of legitimate companies bothers me.

Re:"You suck", says google (1)

Chowderbags (847952) | about 8 years ago | (#15720254)

The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit. It's equivalent to saying, out loud and deliberately, "You suck". He's saying that if they do it manually, that could be evidence for malice, which is a requirement for a defamation suit. (At least according to Wikipedia; IANAL.)


However, statements of opinion are protected under US law from being the target of defamation suits.

Re:"You suck", says google (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 8 years ago | (#15720385)

That's correct. Kinderstart would further have to show that a pagerank is some kind of objective fact, not just an opinion. I detailed this in a response to a sister posting to yours, but the gist is that Kinderstart could conceivably demonstrate that a low rank isn't merely "you suck" but "you are worthless", and they'd refute that statement by showing that there is useful information on their site. Google gave them a 0, and they'd argue that connotes "completely worthless", which is closer to an objective statement of fact than merely "you suck".

I doubt it would work, and I suspect the judge does, too, but he didn't want to rule on that argument if it hasn't been made yet. As long as it has a chance of working, he has to permit it to happen.

Re:"You suck", says google (4, Interesting)

Punt3r (926089) | about 8 years ago | (#15720268)

Well... if google is saying:
"In the opinion of google, KinderStart is not relevant to [some specific search criteria], i.e. KinderStart Sucks", that still shouldn't be defamation.

If they were saying:
"Google saw KinderStart suck on a phallus", (when in fact they did not see such an event), that's defamation.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation [wikipedia.org]
"...publication of a false statement of fact, made with the requisite state of mind, that causes injury"

I count on Google's page ranking system for _relevancy_, and there's no reason why manual intervention can't be part of that ranking system. If I don't like their methodology, I'll use some other search engine.

Re:"You suck", says google (1)

kimvette (919543) | about 8 years ago | (#15720964)

The judge says he's open to the idea that if Google manually changed the pagerank to zero, then maybe it's defamation, which is a valid reason to bring a suit. It's equivalent to saying, out loud and deliberately, "You suck". He's saying that if they do it manually, that could be evidence for malice, which is a requirement for a defamation suit. (At least according to Wikipedia; IANAL.)


THere is a good chance is was manually marked with a PR of 0 because that web site breaks just about every one of Google's guidelines, which Google publishes for everyone's benefit. The fact that they're a linkfarm and claim the rules do not apply to them does not change the fact that Google does not have to list them. Besides, if you query Google for "search engines" one can plainly see that Google does NOT ban even direct competitors, as long as they abide by Google's guidelines.

Re:Wtf? (-1, Troll)

skywire (469351) | about 8 years ago | (#15720141)

And why shouldn't the New York Times be free to accuse KinderStart of molesting little boys? It's their wholly-owned newspaper, so is there any reason they should be kept from writing their own news articles?

Re:Wtf? (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 8 years ago | (#15720187)

And why shouldn't the New York Times be free to accuse KinderStart of molesting little boys?

Don't be obtuse. There's a big difference between libel and stating that you don't like someone when asked about them.

Re:Wtf? (1)

skywire (469351) | about 8 years ago | (#15722920)

By showing a 0 (zero) page rank for KinderStart, they are NOT saying that they don't like them. They are claiming (probably falsely) that a certain algorithm has so ranked them.

Re:Wtf? (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 8 years ago | (#15723118)

First, Google doesn't give answers unless someone asks. It doesn't send you an email stating that Kinderstart is lame.

Second, "if url in blacklist: return 0" is an algorithm.

Re:Wtf? (1)

PastAustin (941464) | about 8 years ago | (#15720226)

Even then, though, why shouldn't they be free to manually change the ranking if they wanted to? It's their wholly-owned database, so is there any reason they should be kept from altering their own data?

I wholly and completely agree with this statement. I do understand, however, that Google has become a major player online and that altering their database could make a company seem less credible.

It really is unfortunate that when a company is having a hard time getting a handle on their business that instead of working hard and doing everything in their power to compete... They sue. That is what makes America. Instead of asking what's wrong with themselves they try to blame their failure on a competitor.

Stupidity.

Re:Wtf? (2, Insightful)

rgmoore (133276) | about 8 years ago | (#15720583)

Even then, though, why shouldn't they be free to manually change the ranking if they wanted to?

Because they claim that Page Rank is an automated, objective measure of a site's relevance. If it turns out that they're manually tweaking Page Ranks in a way that they're not telling people about, they might be guilty of false advertizing. I personally think that's a stretch, but then again, IANAL, so somebody who is might not agree.

Re:Wtf? (2, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | about 8 years ago | (#15720765)

Because they claim that Page Rank is an automated, objective measure of a site's relevance.

A question, then: is it ever possible to incorporate a blacklist into an automated, objective measure and have it retain that status? Suppose that blacklist had very objective criteria: "people who are suing us". Would that pass the test?

I'm not arguing one way or the other, just curious about what other people think of it.

Re:Wtf? (1)

rgmoore (133276) | about 8 years ago | (#15721266)

A question, then: is it ever possible to incorporate a blacklist into an automated, objective measure and have it retain that status? Suppose that blacklist had very objective criteria: "people who are suing us". Would that pass the test?

AFAIK it isn't so important that the conditions be objective as it is that Google be upfront about them. For instance, Google also says that they'll block sites that in their judgment are trying to game the system. They try to come up with automated ways of figuring out when that's true- if only to avoid the effort of manually screening for it- but they reserve the right to block first and come up with automated tests second. As long as they're clear about that, they're likely to be legally in the clear.

That said, I doubt that "we reserve the right to block anyone who sues us" will look good in court. Trying to block sites because you think that they're gaming the ranking system is inherently reasonable because it's part of making the search engine better. Blocking sites because their owners sue you isn't reasonable because it's using criteria that have no relevance to end users. To a judge or jury it would look like crude indimidation and undermine Google's claim to objectivity.

Re:Wtf? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 8 years ago | (#15721951)

[blockquote]That said, I doubt that "we reserve the right to block anyone who sues us" will look good in court. Trying to block sites because you think that they're gaming the ranking system is inherently reasonable because it's part of making the search engine better. Blocking sites because their owners sue you isn't reasonable because it's using criteria that have no relevance to end users. To a judge or jury it would look like crude indimidation and undermine Google's claim to objectivity.[/quote]

How about 'We reserve the right to delist and not deal with anyone who's suing us'?

They're not necessarily 'blocking' them, which implies denying people access to them. It's just that you can't use google to find them.

For a more or less relevant case, There is/was a class action lawsuit against Ford, saying that their crown victoria police interceptors were too vulnerable to vehicle fires when rear-ended.

Basically, what happened is that a number of police departments entered the suit(hoping for $$$), only to turn around and attempt to buy the very cars that they were suing Ford on the basis that they weren't safe. They turned around and sued Ford again, trying to force force Ford to sell them cars. Ford refused and won that suit (seperate from the one alleging that the cars were unsafe). The best link I could find for the practice [detnews.com]

Re:Wtf? (1)

op12 (830015) | about 8 years ago | (#15720615)

Even then, though, why shouldn't they be free to manually change the ranking if they wanted to? It's their wholly-owned database, so is there any reason they should be kept from altering their own data?
Yeah, while many companies do it, that's the risk you take when your business model relies on the referrals from a constantly-changing search engine.

Re:Wtf? (2, Insightful)

capnchicken (664317) | about 8 years ago | (#15720805)

I don't know why, but there seems to be the mindset these days of some new "Right to make a profit". A bit offtopic, but you see the same kind of attitude from the **AA and the like. I understand that you need to make sound business decisions, and making a profit is a business's entire purpose, but those with shakey business models always like to point the finger at everybody else, because they're not getting theirs and it can't be their fault!

Re:Wtf? (1)

lunch lady d0ris (988165) | about 8 years ago | (#15719822)

...and there are A LOT of sucky blog writers out there. sucky is the default for most blog writers.

Re:Wtf? (4, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | about 8 years ago | (#15719936)

No, that's wrong. They have the chance to ammend. There is no restriction about 'manual editting'.

FTA:

Fogel specifically dismissed some of the claims against Google "with leave to amend," meaning that KinderStart can modify and refile the complaint.

-snip-

"The decision suggests that, if properly alleged, Google may be defaming a whole class of Web sites sacked with a '0' PageRank," he wrote in a statement. "If plaintiffs show Google manually tampered with even a single Web site's PageRank, Google's entire claim of 'objectivity' of search results and rankings could collapse."
This only says that Google's defense may fail if the defendent can (this time) prove that Google manually modified anything. They couldn't prove it the first time, so I fail to see how they could with a second chance.

Re:Wtf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720161)

And SCO has yet to produce real evidence that IBM violated their copyright....yet that still drags on and on through the pre-trial mess...

Rank and rating? (3, Insightful)

phorm (591458) | about 8 years ago | (#15720366)

The decision suggests that, if properly alleged, Google may be defaming a whole class of Web sites sacked with a '0' PageRank,

Isn't this something like MacDonalds sueing "Fine Cuisine Ratings Inc" because they're at the bottom of the charts?

Re:Wtf? (1)

lwu (913743) | about 8 years ago | (#15720500)

Regarding manually changing PageRank, didn't Google delisted [slashdot.org] bmw.de [pocket-lint.co.uk] in Febuary? Does this constitute manual tempering?

Delisting BMW.de (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | about 8 years ago | (#15720846)

Yes they did delist BMW.de and I believe it was done manually. It was also documented that it was done for attempting to game the system. bmw.de had hired a company to do the the site that engaged in some dubious SRO practices - they listed used cars ~200 times in the meta content headers IIRC. For this group, they are nothing more than a crappy bunch of static links to other engines that let you do directed searches for early childhood education - oh, and lots of adds (2/3 - 3/4 of the page). I believe they also were engaged in some dubious backlink issues on blogs etc to get the page rank up. So Google tossed them in the hole. I think that's fair - game the system, take the penalty hit.

Re:Wtf? (1)

Val314 (219766) | about 8 years ago | (#15720570)

This only says that Google's defense may fail if the defendent can (this time) prove that Google manually modified anything.


Could someone explain, why i have a right to force an other company to give me a higher ranking than an other site?

and why should google be forced to not manually edit their pagerank?

Re:Wtf? (1)

Sleepy (4551) | about 8 years ago | (#15720327)

>So they wanted Google to pay them because they sucked? If it was like that, then every sucky blog writer could sue them for cash.

Next stop: sue Billboard for not fitting your music track in their top 40, sue Oprah for not reviewing your book.

Heck, I should sue Slashdot for my account being banned from moderating.

Re:Wtf? (1, Troll)

LittleBigLui (304739) | about 8 years ago | (#15720434)

I should sue Slashdot for my account being banned from moderating.


Looking at your homepage I actually wonder why you're allowed to have an account at all. I've never seen such an horrendous abomin... oh wait...

Re:Wtf? (1)

multisync (218450) | about 8 years ago | (#15721753)

I don't know who the humour-impaired twit was that moderated you "troll" but I'll watch for it when I metamod. Off-topic maybe, but what the hell else is new around here?

For s***s and giggles (5, Funny)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 8 years ago | (#15719785)

"It's pretty clear that the judge thinks that some of KinderStart's claims have no chance even with repleading, but the judge apparently has decided to give KinderStart that chance rather than just shutting the door."

Maybe he's just doing it for laughs when they replead. :)

Re:For s***s and giggles (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | about 8 years ago | (#15720572)

Would that be "For shits and googles"?

Thank you, thank you, I be here all ze veek.

I don't get it (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15719795)

...what is it with American's, especially the American Liberal's, that "we see a loss as a win" mentality where they have to spin *everything* so that even when they got their asses kicked, "its a moral victory". Good lord, your Military admits losses and then learns from them. (Vietnam, Korea... although it could be argued those were just lost battles within the war again Communism).

The case was thrown out because it was stupid and baseless. You lost, grow a pair and get over it.

Thank you, Captain Generalization (1)

castoridae (453809) | about 8 years ago | (#15719896)

How does one po-dunk website suddenly map to American's [sic] and American Liberal's [sic]?

Re:I don't get it (-1, Offtopic)

kahei (466208) | about 8 years ago | (#15720050)


Yes... how often I sadly recall our crushing defeat in Korea. First, we were driven completely from the peninsula. Then, we failed hopelessly to counterattack at Incheon. To add insult to injury, we in no way succeeded in driving the shattered remains of the NK army almost all the way to China.

Faced with the might of the Red Army, we then surrendered practically without a fight at the Imjin River(*). Heavily outnumbered, we in no way stabilized the situation at the 38th parallel and we then failed completely to eventually broker a ceasefire -- and in the process, we were utterly unable to protect Seoul from falling under communist control.

I only hope we can learn from this terrible mistake. In other news, you're an idiot in various ways :)

(*) it was a British unit that actually bore the brunt of the Chinese attack, but whatever.

Re:I don't get it (0, Troll)

aplusjimages (939458) | about 8 years ago | (#15720086)

Welcome to America, where you have to freedom to sue who you want and also to use poor grammar when making an argument that is so far off it becomes funny. What country are you from? I bet I can find a problem with it. Found it - it's not America.

Who are they trying to get a class action with? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15719857)

SCO and the RIAA?

Who do they think they are? (4, Insightful)

stoanhart (876182) | about 8 years ago | (#15719862)

Maybe they don't realise that Google's engine is theirs. It belongs to them, they made it. There is no right to be on the list at all. If google wants to, they can put anybody anywhere they want. They could put a page to the bottom manually just for not liking someone if they wanted to. This would hurt their credibility, and thus themselves, so they won't. But they can if they want to.

If I was google, I would permanently ban them.

Re:Who do they think they are? (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#15719978)

Google can deindex pages at will but they claim their Pagerank is computed automatically and if they were to modify it that could be construed as faking survey data in order to defame an opponent. You can skew your surveys in any way you like but you cannot alter the numbers directly and still claim it is a survey.

Re:Who do they think they are? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720367)

And where do Google claim to be conducting a survey?

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

jrockway (229604) | about 8 years ago | (#15722621)

So what's wrong with having a line of code that looks like:

if(url = 'kinderstart.com')
    pagerank.decreaseBy(100)


It's automatic.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#15723990)

Nothing. They didn't touch the database directly.

Re:Who do they think they are? (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 8 years ago | (#15720076)

Maybe they don't realise that Google's engine is theirs. It belongs to them, they made it. There is no right to be on the list at all. If google wants to, they can put anybody anywhere they want.

Sure - and by this reasoning, the telco's and ISP's *can* charge variable rates for access to *their* networks. It belongs to them, they made it.
 
[shakes head] Your logic, and that of the posters agreeing with you, is more proof of how the /hivemind want to treat Google different than any other company. If it was Yahoo! or Microsoft or Amazon who was doing - the foaming at the mouth and howling for their blood could be heard all the way to Jupiter.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720156)

The federal government didn't subsidize the construction of Google.

Re:Who do they think they are? (3, Insightful)

fotbr (855184) | about 8 years ago | (#15720158)

Except that for the most part, the TAXPAYER paid for the copper and fiber to be installed in the first place, through granting of "easments" and tax breaks for "infrastructure improvements", not to mention the whole pesky group of regulations concerning "common carriers".

If we, the taxpayers, hadn't paid for the phone networks in the first place, I would have absolutely no complaints about AT&T or SBC or whomever charging whatever they'd like for data crossing their wires.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 8 years ago | (#15720193)

The telcos are common carriers. They gave up certain rights to gain certain advantages. An ISP is free to charge discriminatory rates and to refuse to offer service to some customers. Unless you can claim that they have a monopoly, Google, and most other companies, have no legal obligation to be fair or nice.

Re:Who do they think they are? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720224)

Google is different than the telco's, fuckknob. The telcos are being paid to provide a service that they now want to renege on. Google doesn't charge for pagerank.

Re:Who do they think they are? (2, Informative)

Rasta Prefect (250915) | about 8 years ago | (#15720247)

Sure - and by this reasoning, the telco's and ISP's *can* charge variable rates for access to *their* networks. It belongs to them, they made it.

ISPs and Telcos play by a different set of rules. They've been granted a whole bunch of special privleges by the government (I certainly didn't give them permission to put phone lines through my front yard, and I'm quite certain that the government isn't going to let another telco come along and install a whole second set). You'll notice the only ISPs that we care about Net Neutrality with are the broadband ISPs who own the cable in my front yard - Nobody cares if AOL gives their own services preferential treatment, because you can just switch to another dialup ISP.

In the same way, switching to a different search engine is trivial - I just type a different address into the bar and use MSN or Ask.com or altavista. Google is the biggest fish in the pond, but they're hardly the only one, so lacking the special Monopoly status that the telcos and a certain OS manufacturer have, there is no reason to restrict what they can do with their stuff.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about 8 years ago | (#15720395)

I'm quite certain that the government isn't going to let another telco come along and install a whole second set

I now have copper and fiber from three different companies running along the street in front of my house. Copper from two of them is running to the wall of my house, and the third company is forever begging me to get them in there, too. There are beating themselves silly on bundling service prices, and Verizon just sued the county to get them to speed up permission to let Verizon run more fiber for their FIoS service. Yes, these companies use public rights-of-way to get their cable from one point to the next, but they have to bear all of the costs of doing so. If they have to cut pavement, they have to fix it. If a pole isn't good enough, they have to put in a better one. If a neighborhood's rules are that only buried cables are OK, then they have to bury all of them at their expense. Pure competition, and it's working. And the local wireless providers are just getting started.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#15720306)

Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon have every right to do whatever they want with their product.

The telcos are slightly different, in that a lot of their infrastructure is on public land.

Re:Who do they think they are? (-1, Troll)

Infernal Device (865066) | about 8 years ago | (#15720376)

Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon have every right to do whatever they want with their product.

Well, except sell commercial software, according to the FSF.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

conJunk (779958) | about 8 years ago | (#15720165)

exactly. have you seen the site in question [kinderstart.com] ? it's a total link farm SEO spam jobbie

it's in google's (and the internet's interests) to whack that kind of tripe out of the indexes entirely

Re:Who do they think they are? (2, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | about 8 years ago | (#15720646)

This is exactly what I suspected (though I don't care to visit the page). Google has a history of giving web sites that have no real content and artificially attempt to manipulate their ranking a 0 page rank. These places do nothing more than leech off of Google and it seems to me it would be in Google's business interest to give them a 0 page rank. What drives people to Google is the quality of the search results.

If most searches turned up link farms, nobody would use Google. Google has every right to protect the quality of its product (search results).

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 8 years ago | (#15720172)

If google wants to, they can put anybody anywhere they want.

Depends on whether a court would find them to have monopolistic control over a vital resource or not. Because if a judge did, then Google might be on the hook for anti-trust behavior should they decide to pull any stunts.

Re:Who do they think they are? (2, Insightful)

tinkerghost (944862) | about 8 years ago | (#15721005)

Depends on whether a court would find them to have monopolistic control over a vital resource or not.
I doubt that any court could find that. The resource is the data itself - the link crossover frequency, the traffic patterns, etc - which is free for anyone with a spider. You don't need Google to get that information, it's just a crapload easier to use them rather than do it yourself.
In order to show Google as a monopoly, you would have to show that Google's possesion of the data prevents anyone else from obtaining it (telco contract model), or that Google's predominance in the marketplace renders doing business with anyone else irrelivant (MS, US oil model).
The problem is that Google doesn't do business with kinderstart, or for any of the pages they rank. Google does business with advertisers, and the advertising market is thriving.
Also, "These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites)." not sure how long that's been there, but it's part of the guidelines that they post on their site. Sort of says they reserve the right to drop you in the bit bucket if they feel you're trying to game them.

Re:Who do they think they are? (1)

delong (125205) | about 8 years ago | (#15721409)

Maybe they don't realise that Google's engine is theirs. It belongs to them, they made it

Indeed. Why counsel argued that Google is a state actor is beyond me. Google is a 100% private entity. It isn't a utility, it isn't any sort of state monopoly, it in no way assumes traditional governmental functions, etc. I haven't read any of the pleadings (and frankly don't care) but reading that makes me believe counsel for the plaintiffs are just barking up a tree.

Google should make a selection (1)

Snarfangel (203258) | about 8 years ago | (#15719895)

"Put people who are suing us at the bottom of the search list," and then enable it by default.

OOGA-BOOGA!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15719908)

OOGA-BOOGA!!!

Stupidity rules! (1)

Roadkills-R-Us (122219) | about 8 years ago | (#15719909)

This kind of thing is one of the main reasons the quality of life is going downhill in the US. Costs continue to go up with *no benefit* to anyone but the people who win stupid (nevermind frivolous) lawsuits. Oh, an dthe lawyers of course. When the money is going for thing sthat have no value, it screws the economy up for everyone.

Add in the paranoia that stifles innovation, the loss of productivity, the screwed up lives, and it's just pathetic. Another place we should bring back the stocks. A judge should be able to provide a summary judgement. This case is a menace to society's health". Into the public stocks you go.

Reason? (4, Insightful)

Umbral Blot (737704) | about 8 years ago | (#15719910)

The only way KinderStart's claims have a chance in hell is if they can claim that they were unfairly discriminated against, which I think is unlikely. However this possibility is why the judge let them re-file I suspect, contrary to the claims of other posters that "Google owns their search engine so they can do whatever they want with it". Even if you own something there are limitations under the law how you use it / run your establishment, and it is possible for Google to run afoul of them.

Re:Reason? (1)

waferhead (557795) | about 8 years ago | (#15720010)

Since Google is a private, not Government entity, and not a monopoly, the only way I can see the plaintiff ever winning a suit is if Google hotlinks any search result for KinderStart to goat.cx ;-)

Google can make them not exist at ALL (on Google search) ift they choose.
It's Googles data, they compiled it.

All KinderStart can really do is ask NOT to be searched/robots.txt etc.

IANAL and all, but the above is "reasonable", and when SHTF, the law, even in the US, looks on "reasonable" heavily.

Re:Reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720159)


> The only way KinderStart's claims have a chance in hell is if they can claim that they were unfairly discriminated against, which I think is unlikely.

Why would they have a claim in that case?

Why can't Google have the right to do what it wants to with its search results? What contract did Google sign that promises everybody that they will get exactly the search results they want?

If Google decides to eliminate low-quality garbage results, then somebody will always scream "unfair discrimination". Google has the freedom to succeed, to fail, to make people happy, and to piss people off.

Re:Reason? (1)

phorm (591458) | about 8 years ago | (#15720403)

Can they? If organizations like the boyscouts of American can block gay members [hatecrime.org] , why should anyone be able to force google's ranking or even inclusion of site site. Also, if you note the linked article, the press from the boyscouts incident has definately hit them financially... which is the way the public can really express their distaste for corporate methods, rather than individual companies wasting court time.

Re:Reason? (1)

Parham (892904) | about 8 years ago | (#15722502)

However this possibility is why the judge let them re-file I suspect, contrary to the claims of other posters that "Google owns their search engine so they can do whatever they want with it". Even if you own something there are limitations under the law how you use it / run your establishment, and it is possible for Google to run afoul of them.

I agree with you 100%. If, for example, the owner of a flower shop told someone to leave their store just because of the color of their skin, people would complain (and rightfully so). The same should be said about google. A lot of people are making the "they can do whatever they want with their own software" pitch, which isn't true. Don't get me wrong, this lawsuit sounds like complete nonsense, but there are limits to how you can run your own website.

Re:Reason? (1)

Moofie (22272) | about 8 years ago | (#15722609)

"If, for example, the owner of a flower shop told someone to leave their store just because of the color of their skin, people would complain (and rightfully so)"

Complain? Yes. Take legal action? No. If I have a business, I should be free to choose not to do business with people in red shirts, or bald people, or children younger than six.

As long as I'm not an agent of the State, there's nothing in the world illegal about that. Of course, there's nothing illegal about the protest I'll invite from the Anti-Defamation Of Children Under Six league, either.

If at first you don't succeed... (5, Insightful)

FractalZone (950570) | about 8 years ago | (#15719929)

...sue, and sue again!

That is what the rabid anti-smokers and greedy trial lawyers did to the tobacco companies.

There is a problem with a system where plaintiffs and keep flooding the courts with cases against any person or organization with deep pockets, hoping to strike it rich by eventually getting lucky in some particular venue. This is where a "loser pays" system would have some real merit.

I am not saying that different people shouldn't be able to file separate (in time and/or location) lawsuits against a particualr party on essentially the same grounds, but that the number of such suits out to be finite, preferably small, before the burden of court costs and legal fees starts to shift over to plaintiffs.

Yeah, that's very fuzzy, but the idea seems sound to me. Suing ought not to be a fishing expedition.

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (2, Insightful)

bowmanje (988214) | about 8 years ago | (#15720038)

Of course you have to consider the flip side. If the loser must pay, the little guy may not bring a legitimate complaint to court for fear of going bankrupt with the court costs if he loses...

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (2, Insightful)

MLease (652529) | about 8 years ago | (#15720344)

Of course you have to consider the flip side. If the loser must pay, the little guy may not bring a legitimate complaint to court for fear of going bankrupt with the court costs if he loses...

That is an excellent point, and the reason I personally have trouble with the "loser pays" idea. I like the idea of discouraging frivolous suits, but not at the expense of discouraging legitimate ones; negligence and malfeasance should be punished. What I'd like to do is set up a panel to review cases that are dismissed, and award costs to the winner if the panel finds that the suit was indeed frivolous. But maybe I'm just dreaming.

-Mike

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (1)

Moofie (22272) | about 8 years ago | (#15722550)

Where are you going to get the people to go on the panel? How are you going to prevent them from being influenced?

Maybe we could just pick people at random, from the populace. Maybe we should call them a "jury".

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (1)

MLease (652529) | about 8 years ago | (#15722791)

Where are you going to get the people to go on the panel? How are you going to prevent them from being influenced? Maybe we could just pick people at random, from the populace. Maybe we should call them a "jury".

I was thinking more in terms of a judiciary panel, or perhaps one appointed by the governor or state legislature. I concede there are problems; defining "frivolous" is a lot like defining pornography, recalling Potter Stewart's "I know it when I see it" remark. But a straight "loser pays" rule would indeed screw people who might actually have a legitimate case, but can't afford to bear the burden if they lose because the defendants has better lawyers, or the jury doesn't like their looks, etc. Even legitimate cases are not necessarily slam-dunks.

-Mike

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (1)

Moofie (22272) | about 8 years ago | (#15723031)

"or perhaps one appointed by the governor or state legislature"

Yeah, because they'll be impartial and not purchased by special interests. Really.

Re:If at first you don't succeed... (1)

FractalZone (950570) | about 8 years ago | (#15720842)

Of course you have to consider the flip side. If the loser must pay, the little guy may not bring a legitimate complaint to court for fear of going bankrupt with the court costs if he loses...

That is why lawyers often take cases on contingency -- if the case has real merit and is over a non-trivial matter (usually measured in money damages), there are almost certainly willing to take it on. Besides, there is always small claims court for those cases that don't involve a defendant with deep pockets, where neither party can afford to get lawyered up.

One problem with our legal system (there are many) is that plaintiffs tend to go venue shopping. This is especially true when they are backed by special interest groups or just plenty of lawyers hoping to find a courtroom where the case will stick. The legal system does absolutely nothing to discourage this behavior pattern, unless you consider that most judges do not like to be bitch slapped by appellate courts (have such courts overturn their rulings on appeal).

Another problem lies in the fact that many (usually but not always left wing) judges enjoy legislating from the bench. That, combined with the way jurors are stifled by the system (Google "jury nullification") if they try to actually do their job and ignore bad laws, creates an environment where trial lawyers who are motivated by greed will just use plaintiffs as fodder in their battle to get rich or promote (their backers') agendas.

Strawman (1)

alexo (9335) | about 8 years ago | (#15721648)


> Of course you have to consider the flip side.
> If the loser must pay, the little guy may not bring a legitimate complaint
> to court for fear of going bankrupt with the court costs if he loses...


Strawman.

In a reasonable "loser pays" system, the amount that the loser pays is set by the court, usually taking into consideration the loser's financial abilities, whether the lawsuit was malicious, etc.

Lawsuit advertising (2, Interesting)

mattOzan (165392) | about 8 years ago | (#15719957)

I don't know how much this legal action has cost them, but it's gotten Kinderstart more recognition their Google PageRank ever did, even when it was healty. There's no such thing as bad publicity, which this whole debacle has gotten them in spades.

But, of course, if you don't offer a quality good or service, mere publicity won't result in lasting traffic and revenue. And since Kinderstart is nothing but a linkfarm, I don't think they'll benefit much in the long run. A Slashmob isn't really their demographic, anyway.

Blacklist (3, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | about 8 years ago | (#15720080)

Perhaps Google should blacklist them for attempting to manipulate their search results, albeit not through the usual means but rather the courts.

Damn, this is a scary. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720095)

I'm scared by the fact that the case made it this far.

Let's say I put up a little web site with FREE CONTENT, and then someone sues me because it doesn't do or say exactly what they wanted.

In what twisted, fucked-up legal theory does the idea of Google providing a free service suddenly turn into a LEGAL OBLIGATION to provide that service exactly the same way forever?

The fact that this idea was even entertained is horrific. This subjects many great free things (Wikipedia, blogs, etc.) to direct legal jeopardy -- or at least burdens them with the expense of hiring a lawyer to defend against these kind of garbage suits.

In the past few years, it's become clear that we're going down a very nasty road. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone sue the FSF because GNU/Linux does not implement some particular feature, or if it has some bug in it.

Re:Damn, this is a scary. (3, Funny)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 8 years ago | (#15720792)

Also in the news today, the GNAA is suing the web site Slashdot. From their lawyer, "Yo man! Everytime we post some'tin on their page, it is always getting marked down yo... They cannot being don't that s**t to a n*****, it just ain't right!"

Taco, as a representative for Slashdot was quoted with a response... "WTF?!"

Small profit is still a profit. (3, Insightful)

rowama (907743) | about 8 years ago | (#15720114)

...the company's revenue from advertisements through Google's AdSense syndication program fell by more than 80 percent...

I'm curious if they are still making a profit on AdSense syndication. If so, then the lawsuit seems even more ridiculous to me. It's like saying, "I could be making $10,000 off of you, but because I can't maintain an interesting website, I'm only making $2,000. I think I'll sue you for the rest."

A Man can Dream... (1)

x-vere (956928) | about 8 years ago | (#15720330)

I was really hoping this would work out differently. I mean, I've had a page rank of 4 for almost two years on my blog and I'm really not happy that Google maintains such a low algorithmic opinion of me. I write a whole lot better than this other guy with a PR7 about the same stuff. Google clearly has it out for me!
How do I sign up for the class action thingy?
sarcasm

haha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720332)

The whole point of this of course it to generate news articles, which all have links to said kinderstart.com website, in turn increasing their page ranking.

Re:haha (1)

TwoTailedFox (894904) | about 8 years ago | (#15722283)

And generate a mass DDOS attack? Hardly sound business practice.

Interesting (1)

nascarguy27 (984493) | about 8 years ago | (#15720479)

I went to kinderstart.com and you can select google's search engine from their list. If kinderstart really thought google was that bad. I would think they'd remove google from the list.

co3k (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15720505)

suuplies to private of its core and finNancial

Yuo fa1L it.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15721111)

developers live and a job to of OpenBSD versus members all over OS. Now BSDI is started work on GNAA on slashdot, slings are limited, lagged behind, Corporations FreeBSD used to On my Pentium Pro the point more ballots. You could open platform, Another troubled developers. The tangle of fatal prima doonas to Previously thought bunch of gay negros of HIV and other FreeBSD is already bloodfarts. FreeBSD his clash with example, if you Are you GAY Superior to slow, Software lawyers Lube or we sell paper towels Future. The hand and Michael Smith are looking very and help us! bought the farm.... who sell another Teeth into when There are some it's going, And coders and what supplies all servers. Coming The Cathedral about bylaws shower Don't just There are only To decline for

delist (1)

rootology (905480) | about 8 years ago | (#15721201)

So what if Google just delists them? Can they still complain? Because, y'know, if they were prickish enough about my search engine and *I* owned Google... Buh bye, have fun on Yahoo and MSN.

Re:delist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15721810)

There's probably a good reason for Google not to delist them.

Imagine tomorrow we see a story on /. that announces that Google have removed the site from their database. Most of the comments would probably be cries of "Censorship! Google is 3v1l!!". Not exactly great PR.

However, IMHO, they have no chance of getting a successful lawsuit out of this.

Kindergarten (1)

Phraghg (984220) | about 8 years ago | (#15721843)

I think KinderStart attorney, Gregory Yu, needs to go back to kindergarten.

The most important lesson you learn from the public school system is as follows: if you suck the proper solution is to stop sucking.

A quick visit to the KinderStart website shows it to be poorly developed. Perhaps he could use the KinderStart search engine to find a suitable kindergarten for himself.

I bet he'd change his mind about the Pagerank real fast.

It's all in the contract (1)

Jayjay75 (468973) | about 8 years ago | (#15722427)

Sure, and all they have to do is present their contract with Google to the judge: the one that guarantees Kinderwossname a certain minimum page ranking. :)

If someone was providing them wih free advertising then stops doing so, I don't think that is grounds for a lawsuit (but, of course, IANAL).

I see this Hamburger as a Hot Dog (1)

serutan (259622) | about 8 years ago | (#15722992)

There's something strangely endearing about people who doggedly refuse to accept reality. "Despite the loss, KinderStart also saw the ruling as a victory." Right, and they also probably see their lame, whiny court case as a noble crusade for justice. I would see it as a comedy if it weren't for my tax dollars getting churned up. If there's any real justice in the world they will run out of lawyer money and blow away.

It's a link farm (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | about 8 years ago | (#15723028)

If you look at the site, it's just a badly coded link farm!

There isn't much in the way of original content, and they charge people to put links there.

Eheheh (1)

nnn0 (794348) | about 8 years ago | (#15731023)

Everyone seems to have forgotten that Kinderstart is a fracking linkfarm, and that Google actually is doing a pretty good job keeping junksites like that out of our results.
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