Patt Morrison

<em>Patt Morrison</em> is known for its innovative discussions of local politics and culture, as well as its presentation of the effects of national and world news on Southern California. Hosted by

Are Google’s search results protected by the First Amendment?

by Patt Morrison

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Google's music search feature is demonstrated at a press conference to announce the new feature, called OneBox, at Capitol Records headquarters in Los Angeles on October 28, 2009. ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Do you consider Internet search engines like Google to be publications that fall into the same category as newspapers and magazines or do you consider them to be utilities that provide services like gas or electric companies?

This question lies at the heart of a growing debate over how search engines like Google should be regulated. If search engines are determined to be private publications, then they are protected by First Amendment free speech rights; however, if they are determined to simply be public service providers, then Google may be found guilty of providing biased services to consumers by unfairly using search algorithms to render “cooked” search results that favor Google and undercut competing firms.

Lower court decisions in two cases, 'Search King, Inc. v. Google Technology, Inc.' and 'Christopher Langdon v. Google Inc.,' have found Google to be protected under the First Amendment, but critics argue that Google is using its dominance as a search engine to monopolize other industries and crush its competitors in those markets.

'Google: First Amendment Protection for Search Engine Search Results' by Eugene Volokh


Should Google be free to manipulate search results or does the company have a responsibility to consumers to provide fair access to all businesses through its dominant search engine?


Eugene Volokh, professor of law at the UCLA School of Law where he teaches free speech law, criminal law and tort law

Mark Corallo, spokesman for, an international coalition of 17 business that are urging law enforcement to enforce antitrust laws to protect consumers on the internet; former spokesperson for US Justice Department (from 2002 – 2005)

Ryan Singel, editor, Wired's Threat Level Blog, they cover privacy, security and tech policy

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