Judge Agrees: Perfectly Fine For Google To Deny Ad Placement For 'Honey Cures Cancer' Claims
from the quackery-perceives-policy-as-censorship,-refused-to-route-around-it dept
Eric Goldman brings us the dismissal of a lawsuit against Google that’s… well, a bit on the unintentionally hilarious side. The lawsuit argues there’s a First Amendment right for Google Ad placement — one that circumvents Google’s policies against allowing questionable claims like “Honey Cures Cancer!” — and contains a request for $10 billion in damages.
El Reg first reported on the lawsuit, filed by a former IBM senior engineer. Apparently tired of the rigorous science involved in his day job, Shajar Abid decided to branch out into speculative fiction.
Abid, who goes by the first name “Shaq” on LinkedIn, claims to have developed “a divine cure for cancer” consisting of “only honey herb and spice.” Google, he insists, will not allow him to advertise the product through AdWords.
He is seeking $10 billion for what he believes is a violation of his First Amendment speech and religious rights, for loss of business, and for pain and suffering. Also, he wants the opportunity to advertise on Google when people search for cancer cures.
Needless to say, it’s a pro se lawsuit, which makes demands Google cover his legal costs a bit perplexing. In addition to the $10 billion, Abid wants the $88 he racked up in ad costs pre-cancellation to be nullified since there won’t apparently be enough money to cover this if he wins.
But he won’t win, something readers may have picked up from the first line of this post. There are many reasons he won’t win, but going pro se and alleging Google’s denial of prime cancer-curing ad placement is somehow a government action is but one of them.
Abid finds it odd Google won’t let him claim honey cures cancer. Well, it will, but it just won’t allow him to buy ad slots for this claim. Abid could start a blog or Facebook page or whatever, but he won’t be allowed to promote it with Google AdWords. Prior legal issues with Google’s pharma ad sales have resulted in policies that won’t allow someone to claim they can cure cancer with honey, no matter how much they firmly believe it will. And Abid believes honey cures cancer as hard as anyone who stands to profit from this claim can possibly believe something. From the lawsuit [PDF]:
Last weekend on Friday March 31 -2017, i received an email that my site had been suspended. It was against google policies as they have details about selling pharmaceuticals etcs..
I said ok, I will call and tell them, i studied the google rules, tell me what to change.
So the first girl I talked to gave a half dozen modifications to do, including take out “divine cure for cancer,” which is my sincerely held religious belief that it is.
But what she doesn’t know is I have done an intensive pharmacognosy study as well as other in depth proprietary research.
I feel this was the first violation, obstructing my 1st amendment rights, however the kind and noble judge interprets.
References are cited.
My philosophy of medicine is based on Moses’s wisdom. One time Mose got sick, so he prayed to God for guidance. God guided him to a plant. So he went and ate it. Then he was cured.
I am combining a systems biology empirical approach based on prophetic medicine.
This culminates (sort of) in a Section 1983 claim, which is reserved for deprivation of rights by the government, which Google plainly isn’t. (Or “even under the spirit of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” as the complaint states hopefully.)
The judge points out the obvious in the dismissal [PDF]:
Plaintiff fails to state a § 1983 claim against Google. Plaintiff does not allege any facts suggesting Google is a government actor or was acting on behalf of the state.
And then notes Abid’s opposition to Google’s motion to dismiss states Google shouldn’t even be a party to this lawsuit.
Moreover, Plaintiff’s Opposition appears to suggest that Google is not the proper defendant and that his claims in fact are against nonparty government entities. Opp’n at 3 (“My section 1983 claim should be applied against the US government, due to the gross negligence of both the FDA and the NIH[;] more than 1 year of work has gone into regulation for my small start-up only for FDA to trample my constitutional rights and NIH my civil rights.”). Accordingly, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim. As Plaintiff argues the FDA and NIH violated his rights, not Google, the dismissal shall be WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.
There’s a Sherman Act (antitrust) claim buried in the lawsuit as well, but the court doesn’t like that approach either.
Plaintiff does not allege facts showing Google had a contract or agreement with LegitScript or any another entity that was intended to harm or unreasonably restrain competition. At most, Plaintiff alleges LegitScript was Google’s service provider. Mot. to Suppl. Pleadings ¶¶ 2, 12. But there are no facts showing Google sought to unreasonably restrain trade, let alone succeeded in doing so.
This will probably only confuse the plaintiff, who so persuasively argued Google was once found guilty of antitrust violations in another country.
I have attached proof Google has done anti-trustful things recently and has been punished by the EU.
The court also finds Abid’s ads violated Google policy, which states it will not permit pharmaceutical ads for non-government approved products that present themselves as proven remedies for illnesses.
Everything is dismissed with Abid given a chance to amend his complaint to fix its numerous deficiencies. The only exception is the Section 1983 claim against Google, which is so far off base (Google isn’t the government) that no amount of amending would fix it.
There’s a big difference between feeling wronged and being actionably wronged. This lawsuit doesn’t even come close to the latter. At this point, Abid has only some wounded pride and outstanding AdWords bill for $88. Filing pro se keeps the costs down but it doesn’t do much for coherent legal arguments. And we’re probably all better off with Google blocking ads that claim faith-infused honey cures cancer.