A few years back, you may recall the "SearchKing" case, where Google penalized a search engine optimizer for gaming its system -- a fairly common practice in the company's ongoing attempts to keep search engine spammers out, while making searches more relevant. Well, in this case, the guy wasn't too happy (and it certainly didn't reflect well on his optimization technique), and he eventually sued Google. It didn't take long at all for a judge to dismiss the case, noting that Google's ranking was their opinion and, thus, protected free speech. However, with so many sites relying so much on Google, and the constant shifts in rankings, you knew it was only a matter of time before such a case popped up again. Google has now been sued by a firm that is upset at its ranking. While the article isn't entirely clear, it sounds like this was a site that was entirely blacklisted, probably for its own aggressive search engine optimization techniques -- and so they're trying to set up a class action suit on behalf of all sites blacklisted by Google. This seems just as silly (and as likely to succeed) as the original case, but the lawyers this time are trying a slightly different argument. They're suggesting that Google is an "essential facility" and by penalizing sites with no explanation and no recourse, they're unfairly hurting businesses. Of course, proving Google as an "essential facility" may take a bit of work -- and could open up the floodgates. The real issue is that, even though many companies do, relying on a single source as a way of driving business is always a risky position to be in. It's a business decision to rely on Google, and not look for other methods of driving traffic. Google is an outside party and can do what they want. While many people do rely on Google, that doesn't mean they have to do anything for other sites, other than try to keep their index as relevant as possible to keep their users happy.
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