Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Another Day, Another Lawsuit Against Google For Indexing Content Someone Doesn't Like

from the sue-sue-sue! dept

It seems you can't go a day without hearing about yet another lawsuit against Google for something that's not actually Google's issue. Avatar28 writes in to let us know that Google and the site "Rip Off Report" are both being sued by a building contractor. It turns out that the contractor is upset about some consumer complaints that were posted to the Rip Off Report site, even though he appears to admit that the incident in question resulted in a lawsuit about construction done by the contractor. However, now the problem is that the Rip Off Report story has a lot of Google juice and shows up right below a link to the contractor's own site in a Google search. The contractor claims that this has caused problems for his business (perhaps understandably) and therefore sent letters demanding Rip Off Report take down the story and that Google stop indexing it. Both sites ignored the requests and so now he's suing. Of course, just because you don't like what someone has said about you online, it doesn't mean you get to sue. As the link above notes, both sites are most likely protected by section 230 of the CDA that protects sites from liability concerning the actions of their users. Once again, in suing and getting the press to write about this story, it's likely that these other reports will start to get more attention as well -- meaning that the story is even less likely to fade away. Perhaps a better solution would have been to proactively counter the claims that were made with some evidence so that the Rip Off Report isn't an issue.

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  • identicon
    Adam, 25 Apr 2007 @ 3:51pm


    oh so typical of modern netiliteracy

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sanguine Dream, 25 Apr 2007 @ 4:07pm

    Suck it up!

    Perhaps if the contractor had not done whatever he did do warrant the complaints he wouldn't have this problem. Assuming the complaints are true why is that whenever someone finds out about negative press they try to sue? All that does is bring more attention to the issue which means more negative results. Why do companies think they can litigate away negative press (regardless of truth)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Obsidian, 25 Apr 2007 @ 6:33pm

      Re: Suck it up!

      To follow up on what Sanguine Dreams said, not only does it bring more attention to the case, but the action of litigation makes the complaining party look guilty to the public, even if they aren't guilty.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2007 @ 4:22pm

    Im fine with all these pathetic lawsuits, I just mentally blacklist anyone who files one. Sometimes I see people littering; sometimes I see them cutting in front of people in line; sometimes I see them being rude or bigoted; sometimes I see them file pathetic lawsuits. Its all useful information that helps me make a snap judgement about their character.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tim Taylor, 25 Apr 2007 @ 4:50pm

    Lets sic Mike Holmes on that guy....arr arr arrrrrr!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2007 @ 9:10pm

    What's next?

    MS suing anyone that gives Vista a bad review?

    Apple suing sites that give bad scores on iPod's?

    Rockstar suing Jack Thompson because he publicly insults the GTA series?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shohat, 25 Apr 2007 @ 11:28pm

    This is actually quite horrible him

    Anyone that runs a business for more than 5 years knows that sometimes, things will get VERY ugly. Once in a while, every possible thing fails, and you have to either compensate or get sued, and for all the right reasons.
    But in case a person that not only got compensated , but also damaged your future business , this realy sucks. I don't see how the contractor can win this, but on the other hand I can understand why he is trying.
    And understanding internet has nothing to with it. People shouldn't understand the technical details of something that is barely 15 years old(internet). Most of you people spend entire lives inside homes without understanding construction and architecture.
    Anyway, that guy is screwed, royally.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      "I don't need no fool computer", 30 Aug 2007 @ 11:42am

      ~17% broadband saturation

      "Anyway, that guy is screwed, royally."

      Naaahhhhh, I'm sure there's plenty of good, Newspaper wielding, anti-internet seniors that would make fine targets for shoddy home-improvement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mkam, 26 Apr 2007 @ 5:08am

    #2 no more

    The first 2 pages of google searches for RSA homes are now full of this article. I had to search complaint plus the term to find any.
    So they succeeded in getting the complaint off of the google searches and replaced it with bad press. nice!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2007 @ 5:39am

      Re: #2 no more

      Hiedi's complaint
      rip-off report
      Seems like she has a legitimate complaint and there is nothing libelous about it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Gabriel Tane (profile), 26 Apr 2007 @ 6:15am

        Re: Re: #2 no more

        If you read his rebuttle on the linked report, the contractor says that he contacted the supposed complainer and that person said they made no such claim.

        IF what this contractor says is true, the problem is that he is trying to remove a lie and is getting no where. So if Ripoff won't remove it, legal action would be the next step. But suing Google is still the wrong way to go.

        I'm sure he just wants Google to remove the indexing to get the visibility lowered about this... which has utterly failed now that this "news" is now all over the place.

        Oops. Didn't know that Streisand builds homes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Maybe were missing something, 26 Apr 2007 @ 5:51am

    If complaints are true...

    If these complaints are true and its hurting his buisness which it should because IF something is going awry from what home owners expected then he is a bad contractor,

    I understand about giving second chances but he has to make a good reputation now to survive his buisness and all the bad press and such will go away

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Flickr, 28 Apr 2007 @ 10:28pm

    Well you built, you live with it ;)

    The company is also now featured on Flickr, so now what is he going to do, go sue Flickr too??

    What he should do is resolve the house in question, do to rip-off reports, get them to inspect his workmemship, and put another report on how he fixed it.

    It would be a great PR story for his company, because mistakes are always made when you build something.

    This is why the construction company should adopt and Open Source Policy, and Thirty Day Trial periods, or even better Freeware homes.

    Anyway he did more damage for this company, by suing google.

    Anyway the company in question is also listed on as 5th listing, and on the 7th listing is the 'Google: Sued Again Over "Bad" Listing' story which names the company.

    Maybe Google should not list his company at all as he can not have it both ways. Wanna be in the eyes of the internet public, then take both the good and the bad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gabriel Tane (profile), 30 Apr 2007 @ 12:27pm

      Re: Well you built, you live with it ;)

      Again, people seem to missing the possibility that this is a legitimate lawsuit, just focused at the wrong target.

      If what this contractor claims is true (that his work was fine and the customer admitted that they made no such claim), and if Rip Off Report won't take down the false claims, then a lawsuit is the right way to go.

      Now I know Google doesn't post these things, it only gathers together what's already out there. Therefore, Google isn't responsible for policing the articles it indexes. So it's up to the individual sites to remove content that contains libelous statements about someone. And if they fail that responsibility, then they should be punished for bad journalism... or in some cases, libel.

      I think this confusion is partially due to the headline of this post. Yes, this guy is "just another lawsuit against Google" and yes, he is targeting the wrong party... but that doesn't mean that he's automatically guilty of whatever those websites accuse him of. He's not suing because he "doesn't like" the content, he's suing because the content (according to him) is a lie.

      In my opinion, it's pretty closed-minded and, well, wrong to automatically assume someone is guilty just because he resorts to a lawsuit. Are we so cynical that we have thrown out the possibility of giving the benefit of the doubt?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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