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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.

Also this:

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.


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 2:40pm

    O_O

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2018 @ 3:15pm

    Honey! I blew up the internet.

    10 beeeeeelion dollars? Does this Shaq have frikkin' lazers, or ill-tempered Sea Bass?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2018 @ 3:17pm

    Suzanne Somers, Cancer Expert

    That guy went about it all wrong. He could have simply hired a Hollywood celebrity to pitch his quack remedy on the TV talk show circuit, like it's been done a thousand times before.

    https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/suzanne-somers-cancer-expert/

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2018 @ 3:30pm

    “Pain and suffering”?
    Honey cures that!

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 23 Apr 2018 @ 5:09pm

    Abid's mom says...

    "Oh honey, you're an idiot!"

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

  • icon
    desertskunk (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 5:18pm

    Pain in the Hive

    I used to be involved with a local Boy Scout Troop and another of the volunteers was a honey true believer as well, so of course he taught the First Aid Merit Badge. Basically he told the boys that neosporin or other anti-biotics were harmful and should never be used and to just put honey (raw honey mind you, whatever that is, he was never able to explain this to me) on any cut and cover it with a bandage as needed. Also he taught that honey cured most cancers, but especially any skin cancers.

    I taught Wilderness Survival, Astronomy and a few other things and man did he have some of those kids brainwashed. I always needed to have a special part of the lesson on debunking that quack.

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

    • icon
      Dan (profile), 24 Apr 2018 @ 2:07am

      Re: Pain in the Hive

      Well, raw honey is a real thing--it's honey that hasn't been extensively filtered after being extracted from the hive. Filtration involves heat and pressure, both of which harm the honey (in terms of taste, if nothing else). If he couldn't even explain that, that's even more lame than I'd have expected from this sort.

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

      • icon
        desertskunk (profile), 24 Apr 2018 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re: Pain in the Hive

        He would just go on about store bought honey vs raw honey, but he couldn't ever tell me what was the difference between the two. I can see how heat and pressure may affect it, at least on a taste level like you said if nothing else.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 5:08am

      Re: Pain in the Hive

      Manuka honey is commonly used in primary care in the UK NHS to aid in the healing process with open wounds. The honey contains antibiotics and so aids in healing open wounds.

      The honey is "raw" but processed to a medical grade and comes from bees that pollinate the Manuka flowers in New Zealand.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 8:12am

        Re: Re: Pain in the Hive

        I thought the deal with honey is that it's hygroscopic: it literally pulls the water out of bacteria by osmosis, and dehydrates them to death. This makes it naturally sterile (not as sterile as a medical-grade saline solution or gauze pad, but quite good relative to most things you'd find out in nature).

        Given a wound where I suspected an infection risk, I'd probably still choose an actual antibiotic cream like Neosporin, but if I didn't have that at hand, I can see using honey to dress the wound.

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

  • identicon
    Chip, 23 Apr 2018 @ 5:28pm

    Thank you TECHDIRT for reporting on "my" Lawsuit against Google, even though you are Sycophantic Biased Leftist Google "Shills".

    As I've said Many times but also Denied saying Many times, All regulations re Bad. Such as Government REGULATIONS "infringing" my RIGHTS to advertise the Medical Benefits of Honey, which can "cure Cancer", and also Leaded Paint chips, which can be used to Treat GOUT.

    There should be "no" REgulations on False "advertising" of Medical TREATMENTS. The Free Market should decide i "Honey" can "cure Cancer" and if Paint chips are a Delicious Snack!

    The "FDA", like the "FCC" and also "NBC and CBS", is an Unconstitutional Agency that promotes Bad Regulations. All Regulations are Bad, as I often say, and also Have NEVER said.

    Also let the Record show Your Honor that Google has Infringed on my "right" as a Natural Person to have my Content hosted on a Privately "Owned" Platform, just like when My Comments are HELD for MODERATION at Techdirt, or when "people" Flag them. Some of these People are Zombies. And they are awlys Infringing on my First Amendment Rights, like Google!

    In "Conclusion", Techdirt is "conspiring" with teh FTC, the FCC, the FDA, the CIA, and CBS to Infringe my Free "speech" and take away my Paint chips because Techdirt is a Google "shill".

    Every Nation eats the Paint chips it Deserves!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2018 @ 5:39pm

      Re:

      I'm torn between believing that you're being sarcastic or that after being dropped on your head as a child you came to the conclusion that it was a natural part of growing so you faithfully reenact the incident every other hour.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 6:06pm

      Re:

      "Leaded Paint chips"

      How long have you been treating yourself for gout?

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 9:15am

      Re: Accidently slipped Truth in: "Techdirt is a Google shill".

      THIS is essence of Techdirt, feebly ad hom rant in supposed imitation of dissenters -- AS IF this comment improves the site -- and mixing in Truth.

      By the way, main point to note is that sheer ranting does NOT get censored. NO fanboy ever gets censored, only dissent from Techdirt's pro-corporate, neo-liberal line.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re: Accidently slipped Truth in: "Techdirt is a Google shill".

        "feebly ad hom rant in supposed imitation of dissenters"

        aka: satire

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

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 28 Apr 2018 @ 6:26am

      You can't out-crazy the crazy

      Too bad Chip can't quite outdo the real metal-eating wackjobbery that's out there.

      Exerpts from a colloidal silver fan page italicized below. The only edge Chip has over them is his ALLCAPS sprinkled throughout his post like the paint chips in his shag carpet.

      ([…] means breaks between copy-pasted paragraphs)

      <crazy>

      Here’s the inside scoop you won’t find anywhere else on the FDA’s ban on information about the astonishing infection-fighting qualities of colloidal silver.

      Don’t remain in the dark. The day is rapidly approaching in which any information not “approved” by the medical bureaucrats simply won’t be available. Here’s what you need to know, right now…

      […]

      Over the past decade thousands of Americans have quietly abandoned the use of prescription antibiotic drugs and have turned instead to the use of safe, natural colloidal silver.

      […]

      The giant pharmaceutical companies quickly realized they would soon be losing tens of millions of dollars annually in sales of their expensive prescription antibiotic drugs if they didn't do something about it.

      Initially, they demanded that the FDA ban the sale of colloidal silver altogether. But try as they might, the FDA couldn't find sufficient grounds for a ban.

      After all, colloidal silver has a fully documented 90-year medical history of safety and effectiveness!

      Not to be stopped, the big drug firms rapidly switched gears: They began pressuring the FDA to restrict the public's access to information about colloidal silver.

      They simply didn't want any more people to learn how powerful and effective colloidal silver really is against infectious microorganisms and the deadly diseases they can cause.

      […]

      In essence, the FDA has ruled that the American public no longer has the right to know what a powerful and medically proven infection fighting agent colloidal silver is!

      […]

      The truth is, it has become abundantly clear that the FDA is now little more than the enforcement arm of the major drug companies!

      Literally billions of dollars in profits are pocketed annually by these pharmaceutical giants thanks to the monopoly they hold on the sale of expensive prescription antibiotic drugs.

      And safe, natural colloidal silver is considered to be the biggest threat of all to that multi-billion dollar annual monopoly on prescription antibiotics.

      Of course, anything that threatens those kinds of profits – and promises to put the power to heal infections back into the hands of average Americans – must be regulated into oblivion.

      And the FDA's perverse “medical Gestapo” now uses the infamous 1999 “Final Ruling” to do just that!

      […]

      But the day is rapidly dawning in which all health information will be controlled by the medical bureaucrats, in spite of the First Amendment.

      […]

      </crazy>

      (BTW, does markdown have spoiler tags? I wish I could have collapsed the above to make its infliction opt-in.)

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

      • icon
        Toom1275 (profile), 28 Apr 2018 @ 6:28am

        Re: You can't out-crazy the crazy

        P.S: I've also seen similar in defense of forcing bleach into both ends of children. Bonus points for the message boards of parents sharing tips on how to hide the signs of their abuse from the kids' teachers and CPS.

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

  • icon
    discordian_eris (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 6:39pm

    Well, at least we now know honey does nothing for your genetic health. He's still a congenital defective.

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

  • icon
    radarmonkey (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 7:02pm

    Speaking as a cancer survivor, I cannot say strongly enough ... F**K THAT GUY AND ALL SNAKE-OIL CHARLATANS!

    Not only should this be thrown out, but he should have to pay for every Google lawyer, executive, secretary, and mailboy that dealt with this! Also, he should have to pay for every judge, clerk, and bailiff that got near this 'suit'!

    People like him do real harm to the vulnerable cancer patients desperate, or ignorant, enough to buy into it.

    May he rot in whatever hell he believes in.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2018 @ 7:17pm

    Maybe he should sell it to Goop. Sounds like the kind of quackery they would buy into so long as he can come up with some kind of Rube Goldberg contraption they can sell.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 9:10pm

    A certain someone-who-did-not-invent-email also promotes similar quackery, claiming miraculous health benefits from Indian spices (including curing cancer).

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

    • identicon
      Thad, 24 Apr 2018 @ 9:46am

      Re:

      I checked up on Shiva yesterday to see how his Senate campaign is going.

      Apparently he's switched from Republican to independent because he was going to lose the primary. Also he's made friends with some white supremacists.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 24 Apr 2018 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re:

        I'm almost impressed, I'd have thought my view of him couldn't have gotten any lower. He really is a disgusting and vile human being who will do or say anything if he thinks it will benefit him.

        As for the rest of the article, 'sickening' is putting it very mildly, apparently the revolting racists bigots are out in force and being treated as 'normal' by a higher than zero amount of people.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2018 @ 10:26pm

    I hate those cocksuckers at google.

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

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 23 Apr 2018 @ 10:51pm

    ..$10 billion in damages, etc., etc., etc.

    Hahahahahaha..ah..ah..uh..ack.....*cough* *cough* *cough*. Oh man, I almost choked to death on my popcorn.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 4:11am

    I wonder if Shajar Abid will submit himself to medical research and allow them to try and induce cancer in his body.

    After all, he can cure himself with this divine cure if they do manage to induce cancer.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 5:43am

      Re:

      He should go help out with the Fukushima Daiichi cleanup butt naked. He can put on some clothes come winter time if he can manage that long.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 5:31am

    the money is in the treatment

    The money is in the treatment of diseases, not the curing of diseases. Sure there are quacks out there, but both EXTREMES are wrong. If it were scientifically proven, and repeatable in any lab, that the cure for cancer was in (for the sake of argument) lemon seeds, do you think that big pharma would all of a sudden acknowledge this, and stop their research? It's wrong to suggest that the medicinal cure for cancer can ONLY be found in natural homeopathic medicine--just as it's wrong to suggest that the cure must ONLY come from traditional big pharma. Both sides should keep searching, and whoever comes up with the fix, with the least amount of side effects, wins.
    keep searching...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 5:47am

      Re: the money is in the treatment

      On the one hand, medicine.

      On the other hand, not medicine.

      Yes, both of these sides should continue their research!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 6:54am

      Re: the money is in the treatment

      The same could be said for medicinal marijuana: some claim it alleviates their symptoms, while others say it’s just an excuse to get high. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
      The CURE for cancer won’t be from big pharmaceutical companies because, like tires that last a decade or light bulbs that never go out, there’s no continuing income from a CURE.
      I personally hope the cure for cancer is oxygen, so that no one makes $ from the cure. Oops—I forgot—the government would then tax oxygen.

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

      • icon
        Dragoness Eclectic (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 12:49pm

        Re: Re: the money is in the treatment

        Oddly enough, I have mostly re-stocked all the lights in my house with "light bulbs that never burn out". (Light bulbs that never go out would be very annoying after bedtime). They're called LED lights, and you can buy them in any hardware store.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 7:00am

      Re: the money is in the treatment

      Profit is not evil. Greed is evil.
      Translation: Making $ is not evil. Lying, stealing, killing, etc. to make $ is evil.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 7:57am

      Re: the money is in the treatment

      False dichotomy?
      Who said it was either this or that?

      Quackery is common and should be exposed. Remember that kook who claimed cancer is a fungus and can be cured with chlorine?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 8:47am

        Re: Re: the money is in the treatment

        ??False dichotomy??
        A false dichotomy implies that there is a third, or are multiple other means to finding a cure for cancer. If the cure isn't coming from big pharma, or from homeopathic or integrative medicine, then what other source(s) do you suggest?

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 24 Apr 2018 @ 6:44am

    The funny thing is, if it was true then any moron could be the one curing.

    Also, let him advertise, Darwin will do the rest. /s (just in case)

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 9:07am

    ONLY when Google's position is supported by common law AND FTC!

    Google is NOT in any degree or way to be censoring on its own. Google is NOT a person with Rights or judgment, it's a sheer legal fiction allowed for use in commerce, and always subject to "natural" persons.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2018 @ 7:36pm

      Re: ONLY when Google's position is supported by common law AND FTC!

      You have no idea what words mean.

      Also, Google is run by people.

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

  • icon
    Dragoness Eclectic (profile), 26 Apr 2018 @ 12:44pm

    Pro Se litigation...

    According to some lawyers, pro se is Latin for "unmedicated and litiguous"...

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


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