Google Appeals Moronic Court Order Demanding It Hunt Down Third Party Sites And 'Take' Offending Content 'Back'

from the the-googlenet dept

Search engines own the internet. The rest of us are just renting space. At least, that’s what a Texas court seems to believe. Google is in court fighting a gag order telling it to chase down and remove certain mentions of a certain lawyer from the internet. (via WaCon)

[I]n a stunning and all-encompassing gag order signed over a year ago and now being appealed to Houston’s 1st Court of Appeals, attorney Calvin C. Jackson, who was accused of forging attorney signatures on court records, demands Google erase all mention of those accusations from the entire Internet including other websites.

Jackson, who settled over these allegations (details also under a gag order), now wants it all to just go away. And he’s gotten a Texas court to agree with him. Not only does he want the past erased, he’s also seeking to bar “Google” from ever mentioning this unpleasantness again. So, we have both prior restraint and an impossibility, all wrapped up in a terrible gag order.

The requests Google is fighting play right to the edges of the “ridiculousness’ envelope. Cleaning the internet isn’t like expunging a criminal record, but this Texas court apparently feels Google (and other search engines) should be able to just go around deleting stuff, even stuff they doesn’t own (which would be pretty much all of it).

The gag order, signed by visiting San Antonio Judge Richard Price in February 2013, forces Google and other search engines to wipe out all record of the allegations from the Internet. It also compels the search engine to find third parties who posted the information to get it back and destroy it.

“Get it back?” The hell? Does this judge really believe Google can just knock on the door of other sites and demand they hand over the “hard copy?” Once again, we have someone with power mistaking his home page for “The Internet.” Google and other search engines index the web. They are not in charge of the web.

Judge Price doesn’t seem to have any idea how Google is supposed to prevent future discussions of this case from appearing anywhere on the web. He just seems to feel a big company like this should be able to do anything he imagines it can. If he ever decides to leave the judicial racket, I’m sure the MPAA can set him up with an office, if UK Prime Minister David Cameron doesn’t snatch him up first.

Let’s not worry about that First Amendment. Let’s just let Calvin Jackson control his past and future via court orders. Except that’s not working out very well for him. The order may be sealed but the gag order doesn’t cover this sort of discussion, or Google’s arguments against prior restraint and impossibility. All he’s done (with the court’s blessing) is ensure more discussion of past allegations. And until this order gets reversed, every site discussing this (like us) will apparently be waiting for Google to knock on the door and ask that we turn over our “originals.”

Filed Under: , , , , , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Google Appeals Moronic Court Order Demanding It Hunt Down Third Party Sites And 'Take' Offending Content 'Back'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

One Funeral at a time...

Just like Science… our elected officials will make sane rulings/decisions one NEW informed judge at a time. We just need to wait till they all die before (HOPEFULLY) people with a better understanding of technology can fill their seats!

But the stupid never quits… regardless of which age you live in.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: One Funeral at a time...

Planck said that, about science advancing because earlier scientists die off. Well, I say Planck’s full of crap.

James Clerk Maxwell is remembered today as the scientist who discovered the physical laws behind light and electromagnetism. He’s known today as one of the most brilliant physicists in history. Unfortunately, he died an untimely death in 1879, of stomach cancer. He was less than 50 years old.

It was decades before anyone else as brilliant as him came along. People looking back at his work say he was on a direct course to Relativity… but then his light was snuffed out. If he hadn’t died, we might not even know Einstein’s name today. (Or we might remember him for discovering something even cooler, because he would have had all that extra progress to build on, had Maxwell’s death not set physics back by decades!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: My opinion

IIRC, Ken White at popehat posted a nice article explaining why you are wrong. The opinion must be based on something, and you must indicate what the opinion is based on so that a reader can verify for themselves and form their own opinion. You do not have to be unbiased. You do not have to be accurate. But you must substantiate your opinion. So I would research a bit before counting on saying it’s an opinion as a defense.

Now I believe there are at least a half dozen other reasons why the above statement is not defamation. But that’s not the point.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 My opinion

Well, since you didn’t link to Popehat, I can’t comment on that. But perhaps he was talking about the same thing that the EFF mentions on this issue (

Can my opinion be defamatory?

No?but merely labeling a statement as your “opinion” does not make it so. Courts look at whether a reasonable reader or listener could understand the statement as asserting a statement of verifiable fact. (A verifiable fact is one capable of being proven true or false.) This is determined in light of the context of the statement. A few courts have said that statements made in the context of an Internet bulletin board or chat room are highly likely to be opinions or hyperbole, but they do look at the remark in context to see if it’s likely to be seen as a true, even if controversial, opinion (“I really hate George Lucas’ new movie”) rather than an assertion of fact dressed up as an opinion (“It’s my opinion that Trinity is the hacker who broke into the IRS database”).

So, let me modify my statement. Trail’s comment was unmistakeably opinion to a reasonable person and therefore it is not defamatory.

John Cressman (profile) says:

Give an idiot...

Give an idiot a little power… and this is what you get. Judges should be barred from EVER hearing cases about technology they don’t understand… and should be required to take tests certifying them to JUDGE specific technologies, etc.

After all, how can you make decisions about something you know nothing about?

But… hey… apparently, they do it all the time…

Anonymous Coward says:

Isn’t there some legal ‘prior art’ somewhere? I.e. has a US court ever ruled that a newspaper company must hunt down every single copy of a newspaper with a particular story (even those used to line rabbit’s cages, fed through shredders or used as toilet paper) plus all other newspapers, articles, books, tv show scripts and recordings, radio show scripts and recordings referring to said ‘upsetting’ story. No precedents?

Anonymous Coward says:

Aren’t these allegations all a matter of public record? If I search for this on PACER, isn’t the information contained therein fair game for discussion?

Forcing Google to remove libelous content indexed from third-party websites is ridiculous in and of itself, but to force them to remove legitimate content takes huge cojones and an utter disregard for our legal rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is an extreme example of an idiot being in control of something that the someone doesn’t understand. ie, if the judge wasn’t an idiot, he wouldn’t entertain any attempt to do this. equally, if the person concerned understood the internet, he equally wouldn’t attempt to get a court to order the impossible. it would have taken the minutest amount of time to find out that there have been one or two previous attempts at this, all of which failed dismally, for obvious reasons. that would have led to this attempt being squashed completely from the get go. if the judge knows of a way to do this, he best inform all those that need to be told. in doing so, he would make an absolute fortune!! at this moment though, all he is is a total plum!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I want this judge thrown out of office. Seriously.

This is not how our courts are supposed to work. It is greatly offensive to me that a judge would think he can tell people that they cannot talk about a case that they are not a party to, AND that the gag order itself must remain a secret. This is offensive even in a national security case – but in this case? It’s ridiculous.

The best you can say for the judge regarding this order is that he may not have read it before signing it. In which case he is not doing his job, and should be fired.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Get it back?” The hell? Does this judge really believe Google can just knock on the door of other sites and demand they hand over the “hard copy?”

It’s not hard. All you have to do is take out an ordinary tongue depressor, tell the computer to “say ahh”, wait for it to open its mouth, and then pull the relevant 8.5″?11″ sheets of paper out of its stomach. Simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

According to Texas rules:

No court order or opinion issued in the adjudication of a case may be sealed

Court records may be sealed only upon a party’s written motion, which shall be open to public inspection.

A motion relating to sealing or unsealing court records shall be decided by written order, open to the public, which shall state: the style and number of the case; the specific reasons for finding and concluding whether the showing required by paragraph 1 has been made; the specific portions of court records which are to be sealed; and the time period for which the sealed portions of the court records are to be sealed. (rule 76a, which is around page 65.)

This isn’t a close call, and the judge should be reprimanded for issuing such an order and then gagging the order itself.

limbodog (profile) says:

Well, yeah.

This is a flaw in our legal system. The judges understand law, but not technology, and technology grows faster than most people can keep up with. Despite the fact that this judge is clearly ignorant, he is possibly the norm among a career that tends to feature older people who are highly specialized, with almost no technical knowledge.

How do we fix it? Do we need technology courts like we have family courts? Do we need tech translators that can be appointed to help judges understand what they have power over?

Anonymous Coward says:

The REAL Mistake Makes Googlies Rich

“mistaking his home page for “The Internet.”… “

Er, no. I guess that you were trying to be funny, but he (the judge) is mistaking Google for “The Internet”. It’s a common misconception in the general and generally uninformed public and Google likes it that way because they want people to think of Google first and go there first. It makes Google shareholders mucho money.

I tell people that Google is a little like the Internet’s unofficial Yellow Pages (remember those?) and then people generally “get it”.

Trails (profile) says:

Re: The REAL Mistake Makes Googlies Rich

Dear Derpnonymous Coward,

First off, the obvious (and when I say obvious I mean OBVIOUS) implication is that the judge’s homepage is Google.

Second, no Google doesn’t want that. What you refer to is the genericizing of brand names and it’s actually a bad thing, as brands are supposed to be differentiators, but if your brand name is genericized (Kleenex, band-aid, xerox, etc…), it loses the ability to differentiate and you gain negatives from your competitors. e.g. “I hate this xerox machine!!” is bad for Xerox, but could easily be said by someone frustrated with a (for example) HP copier.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The REAL Mistake Makes Googlies Rich

First off, the obvious (and when I say obvious I mean OBVIOUS) implication is that the judge’s homepage is Google.

It depends on whether you think server side (probably not his “home page”) or client side (probably his “home page”)

Second, no Google doesn’t want that.

Yes they do. Maybe you need to re-read the post.

What you refer to is …

In the future I’d suggest that you address what the post says and not what ever “straw man” you care to construct (i.e. the rest of your diatribe).

Anonymous Coward says:


This is not just a regular case of a tech frightened judge. This is very very basic knowledge that you really can’t avoid knowing. Maybe I am overestimating people, but come on!
How can anyone be this ignorant?… it would be like believing that there was an elf on a treadmill running our cars.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, anyone?

Grrr, I hate how Techdirt’s interface interacts with mobile devices.

What I MEANT to say is to wonder if Google complied with the court order that compels them to violate the CFAA, would Google be shielded from prosecution?

What about just within the state of Texas?

Probably not. But being prosecuted for obeying a court order would probably count as entrapment.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...