Appeals Court Rejects Silly Case Against Google Over Search Results Summary

from the its-own-form-of-self-help dept

The Sixth Circuit appeals court easily upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a ridiculous lawsuit against Google and others last week. The lawsuit was filed by a guy named Colin O'Kroley, and the summary in the ruling explains the situation pretty well:
Colin O’Kroley googled himself and did not like the results. “Texas Advance Sheet,” an entry read, followed by the words “indecency with a child in Trial Court Cause N . . . Colin O’Kroley v Pringle.” ... Truth be told, O’Kroley was never involved in a case about indecency with a child. What had happened was that his case, O’Kroley v. Pringle, was listed immediately after another case, a child-indecency case, on the Texas Advance Sheet, a service that summarizes Texas judicial opinions. If users clicked the Google link they would have seen how the Texas Advance Sheet works and would have seen that the two cases had no relation. But if they did not click the link and stayed on Google, they would see only the name of his case and the description of the other case separated by an ellipsis.

Claiming “severe mental anguish” from the listing, O’Kroley sued Google (and a number of other entities) for $19,200,000,000,000 (that’s trillion), on causes of action ranging from “libel” to “invasion of privacy,” from “failure to provide due process” to “cruel and unusual punishment,” from “cyber-bullying” to “psychological torture.”
The court is not impressed. The case against Google is rejected in large part because Section 230 of the CDA clearly protects Google. And this was true even though O'Kroley also asked the court to throw out CDA 230 "as a simple matter of logic." That's not how all this works. The other defendants got out even easier, seeing as O'Kroley apparently never served them. In fact, the court finds most of O'Kroley's legal arguments to be a waste of time, including trying to add Georgetown University as a defendant after a law school class said it planned to teach this case.
O’Kroley raises several other points on appeal, ranging from the meritless to the frivolous. On the meritless side: He “requests a court appointed attorney,” ..., but he has not shown the “exceptional circumstances” needed to appoint one.... On the frivolous side: He asks us to strike down the Communications Decency Act (“as a simple matter of logic”); he claims violations of the Eighteenth Amendment (the former prohibition on alcohol repealed long before the Internet came into being); he asks us to add Georgetown University as a defendant (because it might be using this case in its “Robots and Law” class); and he contends the judges below were “biased” against him (because “[t]hey may be ignorant about the English language”).... To restate some claims is to reject them.
But, as Judge Jeffrey Sutton wryly notes at the end of the opinion, all is not lost for O'Kroley. Thanks to this lawsuit, the search result that caused him so much anguish has been pushed down the listings in favor of stories about this stupid lawsuit.
In most respects, O’Kroley didn’t accomplish much in suing Google and the other defendants. He didn’t win. He didn’t collect a dime. And the search result about “indecency with a child” remains publicly available. All is not lost, however. Since filing the case, Google users searching for “Colin O’Kroley” no longer see the objectionable search result at the top of the list. Now the top hits all involve this case (there is even a Wikipedia entry on it). So: Even assuming two premises of this lawsuit are true—that there are Internet users other than Colin O’Kroley searching “Colin O’Kroley” and that they look only at the Google previews rather than clicking on and exploring the links—it’s not likely that anyone will ever see the offending listing at the root of this lawsuit. Each age has its own form of self-help.
Each age has its own form of self-help, indeed.

Filed Under: cda 230, colin o'kroley, search results, search summaries, section 230
Companies: google


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    bob, 25 Jul 2016 @ 5:34pm

    a new anti-SEO business is born.

    I wonder how much he charges by the hour to help people hide information about themselves from Google's search results.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2016 @ 5:41pm

    The court ruled in favor of Google involving ridiculously specific search terms?

    Whatever's not going to like this.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2016 @ 5:57pm

    This is a disaster!

    It's well-known (by everyone except apparently this Luddite court) that any ruling in favor of Google--on any grounds whatsoever--scrapes the jam from the bleeding lips of the poor musicians, because Google's entire business model--including the Google campus cafeteria lunch menu--is based solely on inducing copyright infringement of incoherent ephemeral commercial music.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2016 @ 6:55pm

      Re:

      Look everyone a new troll has discovered TechDirt!!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2016 @ 8:41pm

      Re:

      Pretty accurate, though note the incorrect usage of Luddite. "Luddite" is not a word used by copyright fans to describe their opponents. Try "pirate court" instead.

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

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 25 Jul 2016 @ 9:34pm

        Re: Re:

        Almost nobody uses "Luddite" correctly anyway, so it typically has no more meaning than just calling someone "bastard" or something.

        The historical Luddites were not anti-technology. They were reacting to a particular use of particular technology that they viewed as threatening their livelihoods.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Jul 2016 @ 6:45pm

    Sometimes, or maybe most of the time - i don't pay attention because - those results summaries suck. And so does search, often enough to notice. (No matter how i modify operators.) But LOL dude. Dude. Duuuuude.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jul 2016 @ 7:26pm

    You win!

    Mission accomplished! Good job, (dumb-a..) sir!

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

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 25 Jul 2016 @ 9:48pm

    if i had a say i would pick sterilization as part of his punishment.

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

  • icon
    DocGerbil100 (profile), 25 Jul 2016 @ 10:10pm

    One hundred idiots make idiotic plans and carry them out. All but one justly fail. The hundredth idiot, whose plan succeeded through pure luck, is immediately convinced he is a genius.
    -- Iain M. Banks, Matter.

    If there's ever a 'citation needed' for the above quote, this story is it.

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

  • identicon
    David, 26 Jul 2016 @ 2:26am

    He should talk...

    When I was young and pretty, I created an Emacs WYSIWYG add-on for the LaTeX text processor called "Preview-LaTeX". When I first vanity-googled it, I was rudely reminded of Google ignoring case (these days, the project has changed its name to all-lowercase anyway) and using "-" merely to indicate juxtaposition. Man, what a vanity suit this could have been.

    These days, the reminders of an imprudent name choice are way way down the list. And I doubt that it is because of Google being afraid of getting sued.

    Basically, I did an O'Kroley: be relevant enough that competing unsavory links are just pushed far enough down the list to not matter.

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

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 26 Jul 2016 @ 6:27am

    Not A Recommended Tactic, But Nevertheless

    Even assuming two premises of this lawsuit are true—that there are Internet users other than Colin O’Kroley searching “Colin O’Kroley” and that they look only at the Google previews rather than clicking on and exploring the links—it’s not likely that anyone will ever see the offending listing at the root of this lawsuit. Each age has its own form of self-help.
    So is this the O'Kroley Exception to the Streisand Effect?

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 26 Jul 2016 @ 7:38am

      Re: Not A Recommended Tactic, But Nevertheless

      The O'Kroley Effect: the unexpected bonus of viral publicity burying unwanted search results. Many people pay good money for this and get nowhere but O'Kroley gets it for free by making a fool of himself in court. Hey, whatever gets the job done, right?

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

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 26 Jul 2016 @ 8:20am

    Two words in the same statement that I rarely see together. Free and court.

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

  • icon
    metalliqaz (profile), 26 Jul 2016 @ 9:02am

    Crazy is as crazy does

    Based on his filings with the court, I'm sure we'll be seeing this name in the headlines again when he finally cracks and starts shooting people.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 26 Jul 2016 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    and Google will be counter suing for a "Jillion" dollars - in cash!!!

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

  • icon
    crade (profile), 26 Jul 2016 @ 2:03pm

    Don't be discouraged, you can try again after Trump "opens up" libel laws!

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


Add Your Comment

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
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.