Google Sued for Defamatory Search Result–RSA Enterprises v. Bad Business Bureau

By Eric Goldman

RSA Enterprises v. Bad Business Bureau, No. 2:07-cv-01882-HAA-ES (D.N.J. complaint filed April 23, 2007)

Bad Business Bureau, a/k/a the Rip-off Report, is a well-known repeat Internet defendant (see this article from the Phoenix New Times explaining why). They are a rare two-time loser of the 47 USC 230 defense (see here and here) because plaintiffs have alleged that the Rip-off Report, and its founder Ed Magedson, actually write or embellish griping/bashing content themselves rather than publishing griping/bashing content from users. If the content in question came from users, the Rip-off Report is clearly protected by 47 USC 230 and lawsuits against them for such content should be clear losers. On the other hand, if Rip-off Report writes the content itself, the issue gets more complicated.

In addition to suing the Rip-off Report, this particular plaintiff named Google as an additional defendant for disseminating the allegedly defamatory content as part of its search results. Bad move. Google is unquestionably covered by 47 USC 230 for this content, and there is no way the plaintiff can get around the statutory immunization. So the only question in my mind is what sanctions will attach to the plaintiff’s poor choice. Will Google get Rule 11 sanctions? Does New Jersey provide anti-SLAPP relief? (See the New Jersey page on the California Anti-SLAPP Project, and note that Google got anti-SLAPP relief in a similar CA case involving Mark Maughan). With any luck, this case will provide an excellent precedent to establish why plaintiffs should leave search engines alone for their search results.

(HT: Wired News Blog and Search Engine Land)