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."


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:12am

    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.

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

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:41pm

      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!)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:24am

    And this judge would be the first to sue google if there was not enough positive mention of him when he goes for re-election.

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

  • icon
    Trails (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:25am

    My opinion

    It is my opinion based on public articles and documented actions, that Calvin C. Jackson is a lying douchenozzle.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:32am

      Re: My opinion

      I'm no expert about such things, but I think you need to actually point to some public articles and documented actions to avoid defamation based on the reasonable opinion defense.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:42am

        Re: Re: My opinion

        Nope. There is no "reasonable opinion" defense. It's just an "opinion" defense. He said it was his opinion, and therefore not a statement of fact, so there's no defamation.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:41pm

          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.

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

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:04pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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 (https://www.eff.org/issues/bloggers/legal/liability/defamation):

            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.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:44pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: My opinion

              Right. An opinion requires no evidence or support of any kind. If it looks like a statement of opinion then it cannot be defamatory, no matter how unreasonable the statement.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 5:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: My opinion

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: My opinion

        The language is unclear. Mr. Trails could be referring to a recumbent appliance for applying a refreshing rinse. Or so I would argue if that lying sack of a lawyer chose to humiliate himself further in a court of law.

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

      • icon
        Trails (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 3:00pm

        Re: Re: My opinion

        So if the comment is on an article about said nozzle, wouldn't that be considered "pointing" to it?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 4:56pm

      Re: My opinion

      People, please! Let us stipulate, here and now, that there are 4,856,172.8 angels on the head of this pin, and end the argument!

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

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:26am

    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...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 4:59pm

      Re: Give an idiot...

      Ignorant, unenlightened, uneducated, technically obtuse, maybe, idiot, definitely now. Idiots, whatever your opinion, don't earn law degrees and don't become judges. Ignorance is repairable.
      .

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 5:05pm

        Re: Re: Give an idiot...

        Sorry, make that "definitely NOT"

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

      • identicon
        Digitari, 23 Apr 2014 @ 5:20pm

        Re: Re: Give an idiot...

        "Ignorance is repairable."
        NOT when it is willful, and a lot of these cases are willful, they (Lawyers,Judges,Politicians) "Pay/have paid for" assistant to do that "internet" thing. It's a sign of affluence.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2014 @ 12:41am

        Re: Re: Give an idiot...

        Idiots don't earn law degrees? Yes... yes, they do...

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

    • icon
      Spointman (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 9:57pm

      Re: Give an idiot...

      If you do that, then groups like the RIAA/MPAA will happily provide "educational" materials about BitTorrent, and patent troll^H^H^H^H^H innovators like Intellectual Ventures will happily explain to judges how their "on the Internet" patent is legally novel and perfectly valid.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:26am

    That can't be. "He-who-shall-not-be-named" has already been copyrighted by Ms Rowling. Shall we open a suggestion thread on how to mention the guy?

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

  • icon
    Baldaur Regis (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:27am

    This "visiting San Antonio Judge Richard Price"....

    Was he perchance visiting from 1840?

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

  • icon
    Jessie (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:31am

    Google should just search for this information, print it out, then video themselves shredding the printouts.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 11:37am

    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?

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 24 Apr 2014 @ 1:56am

      Re:

      Actually, this would be more like a judge ordering a public library to do that to a story published by that town's newspaper. The library might have copies on hand, but they don't control anyone else's copies.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:00pm

    Destroy the Hard Copies

    Dear Judge Richard Price,

    Have we got some hard copy for you!

    The Internetz

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:29pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Indy, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:29pm

    Get it Back

    "get it back" has to be the most vague request a court has ever given an entity? Did the judge at least say it in an Austrian accent?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:35pm

    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!!

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

  • icon
    TheTripper (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:47pm

    Streisand...

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:58pm

      Re:

      Wouldn't that just be the funniest though, if the crazy order was the result of the one demanding the information be taken down, and the judge decided to punish his insane demands by giving him exactly what he asked for, though not what he wanted?

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

  • identicon
    KRA, 23 Apr 2014 @ 12:58pm

    Do people who are wrongly arrested for crimes and later exonerated get to have every single record of their arrest removed forever from the Internet? No. So what makes this jackass lawyer (sorry to be redundant) special?

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

  • icon
    Gracey (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:24pm

    Google ... the Internet Police

    NOT

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:42pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:42pm

    "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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 1:54pm

    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.


    http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/rules/trcp/rcp_all.pdf (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.

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

  • icon
    limbodog (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 2:11pm

    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?

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

    • icon
      beltorak (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 2:39pm

      Re: Well, yeah.

      > Do we need tech translators that can be appointed to help judges understand what they have power over?

      A part of me really wants to say "yes" but I fear the entities that would buy their way onto such boards; RIAA, MPAA, Beyer, Monsanto, etc.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 2:59pm

    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".

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

    • icon
      Trails (profile), 23 Apr 2014 @ 3:09pm

      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.

      http://ndrichardson.com/blog/2012/09/11/brand-genericide-when-brand-names-become-commonplace/

      Cheers,
      Trails

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 3:50pm

        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).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 3:01pm

    Unbelievable

    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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2014 @ 6:14am

      Re: Unbelievable

      Any technology which is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.

      For a lot of people, computers and the internet have long passed that point.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2014 @ 5:29pm

    Friend of mine says give Texas back to Mexico.

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

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 24 Apr 2014 @ 1:58am

    Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, anyone?

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 24 Apr 2014 @ 2:00am

      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.

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

  • icon
    Fushta (profile), 24 Apr 2014 @ 10:34am

    Cannot give it "back"

    "Give me 'back' my oxygen."
    "Sorry, I already turned it into CO2. It cannot be 'backed.'"

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

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 25 Apr 2014 @ 9:01am

    Streisand Effect

    I'm sure that by now Barbara has truly regretted her original action that has for now, and for ever, linked her name with stupid internet actions! This pinhead will be a nice sub-chapter in that book!

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.