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Google sued for banning sites - possible class action
goodroi




msg:1236291
 12:28 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

In an attempt to force Google to reveal information about their ranking method, KinderStart filed a civil complaint against Google and is trying to get class action status in order to represent all sites that Google has banned.

[washingtonpost.com...]

Too early to say if this attempt will make any progress. It is interesting to notice the increasing number of lawsuits against the search engines as the Internet has become mainstream and people better understand the online economics.

 

europeforvisitors




msg:1236321
 7:06 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

it is not their right -- as the acknowledged dominant player -- to "punish" without explanation.

Actually, it's their right to do just that, according to the judge in the SearchKing case. But why debate the First Amendment when--as Dayo_uk and TheBear have pointed out--the problem is likely to be a "www vs. non-www" technical glitch?

One could argue quite reasonably that the glitch isn't at Google's end because, technically speaking, www.mysite.com is not the same as mysite.com. (Liberal-arts types, including me, might prefer a less literal interpretation of URLs, but that doesn't mean we're right or that Google is wrong.)

Chances are, the plaintiff in this lawsuit just screwed up (as I did before my Google referrals dropped by 70-90% for two months last year), and it needs to get its ducks in a row instead of letting its technical staff duck their responsibilities.

BigDave




msg:1236322
 7:11 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Try reading the legal definition of a monopoly and tell me how that can apply to a free listing service, even if they have 100% of the "market". (hint, it doesn't apply)

Then explain to me how it is an *illegal* monopoly?

Then explain to me how, even if it was an illegal monopoly, how anyone would be able to file a lawsuit against them other than another search engine or an AG?

What would be the legal remedy?

My prediction, summary judgement quoting the searchking case.

moishe




msg:1236323
 7:12 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I guess I should sue DMOZ for not listing all my sites.

europeforvisitors




msg:1236324
 7:21 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yes, and I'm really mad at the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW for not reviewing my last book.

cabbagehead




msg:1236325
 7:32 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

The point of regulating monopolistic powers is to enable competition and maintain a dynamic marketplace. I don't see how this is really all that different from the regulation of Ma Bell some years ago. As for it not applying becuase its free - tell that to the people who have lost money at the hands of Google. Opportunity Cost may not be the direct equivelent of Cash but I would hardly say what Google does is entirely "free". Besides, consider the implied strong-arm tactics we've all discussed so many times in the past with a bit of skepticism. As long as there remains any motive for Google to smack down the small ecommerce websites and force them to use their PPC ad network to make money, there is a concern over extortion in my mind. This is the bully claiming to own the street and charging rent to the tenants if they want to do business on Main street. Again, who own's main street though?

You honestly don't see a need to regulate that? You don't see a potential for abuse there? And now that Google is public and their growth as slowed a bit, I can guarantee you there will be pressure to capitalize on their position more and more - and issue like this become more and more of a real threat.

Dayo_UK




msg:1236326
 7:43 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>One could argue quite reasonably that the glitch isn't at Google's end because, technically speaking, www.mysite.com is not the same as mysite.com.

Yes, although the algo does not deal with this situation well and it seems that Google agree that this part of the algo does need improving - but this is far from Google delibrately penalizing sites.

The thing is this site could possibly come back - as this is what Big Daddy is supposed to all be about - I wonder if the site owners will probably then say it only came back due to the possibility of a class action.

Lorel




msg:1236327
 8:09 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I checked the last entry for this site in the wayback machine dated March 31, 05 (being as the site was supposed to have disappeared in april) and couldn't find anything terribly wrong in the code--no evidence of spam. It even had basehref on all pages so that should have protected it from the www vs non-www problem.

tomihasa




msg:1236328
 8:26 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Suing search engines for ranking low in search engine results pages is pointless, because the rankings are based on algorithms and what's the point in suing an algorithm?

Some people are creating businesses that are based on free search engine results rankings, which is very risky, because it's the search engines that decide how they rank web sites. So, Google doesn't destroy businesses, it's the people who destroy themselves by creating risky businesses. When you start a business you should know the risks beforehand and not whine afterwards for making unwise decisions that you are responsible of yourself.

Google is not the monopoly, because you can switch to any search engine you want.

Google doesn't have the obligation to tell personally using a telephone or via email or by other means why a site is banned, because it would also help spammers reverse-engineer spam detection algorithms and it's impossible to know who has spammed intentionally and/or who was just too lazy to read the webmaster guidelines and/or check their own site they are responsible of and/or read even one SEO guide before publishing a new site.

Also, contacting web site owners takes time and time costs money and if you don't pay for getting listed by a search engine, you shouldn't deserve to get listed at all. So, because no-one deserves to get listed because no-one pays to get listed, you can only see it as a gift if your site happens to get indexed or even rank better than your competitors who also try to rank high for various keywords for free.

It's the web site owner's responsibility to find out what is against search engine's terms of service, and Google does give the reasons for getting banned on the webmaster guidelines pages. Google also offers Google Sitemaps service, and it's for free, which means Google does care about its public relations.

Even if you get banned, you can use AdWords. When you use AdWords your web site deserves to be shown in search results page, because you pay for it.

If you do something criminal, it's your responsibility. If you troll in a forum, it's your responsibility. If you do something unethical, it's your decision.

If you start a businesses and it depends on free search engine results and/or you spam search engines and/or don't read the SE TOS, it's your decision and you deserve to face the consequences.

kevinpate




msg:1236329
 8:55 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google is being sued because someone doesn't like where they rank ..... yawn
(by the by, EoV, and a couple of others, are holding some right fair hammers. All things considered, they seem to have a very likely, and appropriate, outcome already nailed.

Miop




msg:1236330
 8:57 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I can't get my head around the no-Google responsibility/tough-titty webmaster thing - I really think the time has come that webmasters/businesses need to start viewing their website as a marketable *product*, for that it what it is to Google - Google takes your content (unless you block it) and makes a shedload of money from it.
It is not a 'listing' as in a free directory listing that you request and may or may not be turned down for, a listing which results in a few hand-chosen words and a link to your site.
G steals (i.e. takes without permission) and reproduces your actual content including the source code (a product of value) and bandies it about in order to make money from its paid ads, which it does in spades. Why are people so willing to undervalue something which takes years to build/refine?

The obvious step forward, IMVHO, is that Google should have to ask permission to use people's website content (and automated email would suffice), or for sites only to be included if they have specifically submitted it (and removed when requested - I am still waiting reams of pages to be removed after requesting it), since it is now a commercial product, and then we can talk about the limitations of their obligations to webmasters and terms and conditions.

If people and search engines treat website content as free-for-distribution material, then what else can we expect other than what we have now?

The scenery has changed - what was once a free-for-all for mutual benefit has become a commercial relationship, and should therefore have some standing in law. For those in doubt, consider the matter that Google has been ordered to turn over the URL's of websites to the US government. Now tell me that that information is not valuable commercial property which should be treated as such, and that Google has no obligation of responsibility?

Freedom




msg:1236331
 8:59 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

Merits of the case aside, I still have to root for the underdog here on general principal.

Reno




msg:1236332
 9:10 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

My prediction, summary judgement quoting the searchking case.

It will be a hollow victory, If that in fact happens. Website owners will continue to be injured without explanation or recourse to remedy -- not exactly a great outcome, or something anyone should applaud. Big guy with big money dodges bullet and wins again. Nothing changes, nothing is improved, and Google ends up being seen as becoming more of a corporate behemoth. Everybody loses.

Man oh man, the folks at MSN have GOT to be loving this....

ps. Very interesting point of view Miop -- an angle I had never considered.

.....................................

europeforvisitors




msg:1236333
 9:46 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't see how this is really all that different from the regulation of Ma Bell some years ago.

It's completely different, but perhaps this isn't the best forum for explaining the history of the Bell System, AT&T, and the changes in the U.S. telephone system that occurred in 1984.

Suffice it to say that, last I heard, Google wasn't the sole supplier of search for large portions of the United States and wasn't requiring that users rent equipment made by a Google subsidiary. :-)

Kufu




msg:1236334
 10:11 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

it wouldn't be tollerated for a private entity to single-handedly contol Main Street like that.

The equivalent of streets would be the Internet connection providers. Google does not provide the means to get to the store. You can't blame a yellow pages for rejecting an ad because it doesn't meet the standards.

I'm not sure if we are on different sides of the same coin, but perhaps different edges of the same side. :)

crobb305




msg:1236335
 11:10 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

They are definitely getting some publicity/traffic now from links on webmasterworld [webmasterworld.com] and potential media coverage.

C

Reno




msg:1236336
 11:24 pm on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

If anyone with a stomach for legalize would like to read the actual Kinderstart vs. Google complaint, it can be downloaded as a pdf:

[mercurynews.com...]

..................................................

BigDave




msg:1236337
 12:07 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Oh My God! they are claiming that Google is violating their free speech rights by not sending people to their site!

All this in US district court, where you would think that the judge would know at least a little constitutional law.

For those of you that don't know, the first amendment does not guarantee free speech, it guarantees that congress cannot pass laws that restrict your speech. Other parties are not bound by it.

There is so much wrong with their complaint so far, and I have just read a few pages. I hope they are already working on their first amended complaint, because this one ain't gunna fly.

Bones




msg:1236338
 12:14 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you can't beat them, sue them.

Sad.

victor




msg:1236339
 1:19 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

If a court ever rules that a website (Google say) must give a free link to another website, then we are all vulnerable.

Consider:

Have you ever declined to link to another site that has requested a link? Have you ever failed to disclose your reasons for declining the link?

If the requesting website onwer hits you with a writ demanding compensation and quoting the Google Verdict in justification, have you got the resources to fight that?

Or must we all cave in and give links on request?

BigDave




msg:1236340
 1:52 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is funny. A lawsuit seeking class action is filed against one of the largest companies in the united states.

Who would you choose as your lawyer? A one man lawfirm? One that also runs a software company out of his office where he is listed as Marketing Director and Cheif Legal Officer? How about a lawyer who is a CPA and seems to be versed mostly in financial law?

He must be pretty impressive to fight off all those giant firms who must have wanted the contingency on this class action case.

Summary Judgement.

smokeybarnable




msg:1236341
 1:54 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

the bottom line is that google grew so fast because it was retuning high quality links for search terms. It seems like they aren't doing that anymore which is sad. It's a bad business move and they will pay dearly for it in the next few months.

kennebec




msg:1236342
 1:56 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

The weird thing about this site is that it feels somewhat, well, abandoned when you browse through its pages. The copyright statement in the footer is six years out of date. And the site has a section of press releases it has published ... the most recent of which is four years old.

Maybe a bit more time working on the site might have helped!

Web_speed




msg:1236343
 2:10 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Or must we all cave in and give links on request?

Yes you must, if you consistently claim that you are in the business of indexing/organising the entire web and that your algo is fully democratic with no special preferences to any site, a fully machine driven ranking system. You floated your company on these claims not to mention built your entire brand along these lines and became the most powerfull/popular online search provider, world wide....when these claims are mostly false and misleading and you are actively blocking millions of businesses from appearing on your SERPs for no reason other then pushing harder your Adwords agenda.

What you are doing is very misleading otherwise and you will need to provide proper answer sooner or later, if not to these businesses then to the regulator.

cbpayne




msg:1236344
 2:23 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is laughable. Google has not banned the site. However, if they did drop it from its index, then they are doing us all a favor! Its a link directory - why would Google want to list such a site anyway? How often do we see threads complaining about sites like this coming up in the rankings!

Google should counter with claims of nusiance and make the site and lawyer pay dearly.

Miop




msg:1236345
 2:25 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<If a court ever rules that a website (Google say) must give a free link to another website, then we are all vulnerable.>

Google doesn't just give links - it harvests ones entire website and reproduces it (and all your internal links along with that). Not the same thing IMV.
What's more they specifically state in their terms 'You may not take the results from a Google search and reformat and display them, or mirror the Google home page or results pages on your Web site', but that is what they are doing with our sites. There is no reciprocality here. Something for nothing for G which they would not allow vice versa.

I would say that if Google is not willing to give you a website 'link' for free, then it has no business 'linking' to (or actually, reproducing) websites for free.

Of course you don't give any old 'link', but then it would be sane for G to advise sites why they have not been admitted or have been dropped (or penalised).

Can anyone give a rational argument as to why this should not be the case, apart from 'Google doesn't owe anyone anything' (when in fact it does, since it has used non-Google material to gain wealth)?

Why is Google not expected to pay in some way for this material, which it didn't even ask the owner for?

mrprotein




msg:1236346
 2:29 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is funny. A lawsuit seeking class action is filed against one of the largest companies in the united states.
Who would you choose as your lawyer? A one man lawfirm? One that also runs a software company out of his office where he is listed as Marketing Director and Cheif Legal Officer? How about a lawyer who is a CPA and seems to be versed mostly in financial law?

He must be pretty impressive to fight off all those giant firms who must have wanted the contingency on this class action case.

Summary Judgement.

If they even got to summary judgement it would be a win for the plaintiff. The complaint is written purely for propaganda and pr ie. 20 pages too long and the causes of action are odd then throw in canonization issues to boot. I'd say this attorney picked the wrong client as there are a lot of people out there with legitimate beefs.

Expect a major if not all out win from G when the court rules on their eventual 12(b) motion.

Web_speed




msg:1236347
 2:31 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is laughable. Google has not banned the site. However, if they did drop it from its index, then they are doing us all a favor! Its a link directory - why would Google want to list such a site anyway? How often do we see threads complaining about sites like this coming up in the rankings!

Because google lists and rank high millions of other similar sites that have adsense on and many more millions of MFA's that pay for advertising. You can't brand the advertiser legit and the directory as a spammer for no reason other then exercising the power of your monopoly.

Miop




msg:1236348
 2:40 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<Its a link directory - why would Google want to list such a site anyway? How often do we see threads complaining about sites like this coming up in the rankings!>

Dmoz is a link directory, and so are most of the specialised sites e.g. trade organisations with links to its members sites.

From my own POV these sites are only annoying when they are mirrored many times, which they seem to be in certain sectors like insurance and real estate (or are just collections of pages with adwords links on them and are obviously only there to generate revenue for AW advertisers!).

duckhunter




msg:1236349
 4:40 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

No shirt, no shoes, no service.

I believe the right to serve a customer has always been up to the business, not the customer. Pure publicity stunt.

Liane




msg:1236350
 5:56 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am not a lawyer, but after having read their complaint, they will lose. Full stop.

Stupidity is no substitute for a thought process which has a foundation, walls and ceiling. These people are nuts if they think they will win. Google's lawyers will blow their doors off in no time and rightfully so!

Stupid stuff which doesn't even warrant the attention this thread has given them already IMHO.

Hanu




msg:1236351
 6:11 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

True genius at work. This is the best way of promoting a crappy site I have ever come across. I'm sure their traffic is going stellar. Of course they'll lose, but who cares?

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