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Media Alerts - Sixth Circuit: Google wins $19.2 trillion case -- internet search providers protected under the CDA
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August 3, 2016
  Sixth Circuit: Google wins $19.2 trillion case -- internet search providers protected under the CDA
Case: O'Kroley v. Fastcase

Area of law: Internet law; Communications Decency Act

Issue: Can an internet search company be held liable for how it presents its search results when its practices caused a user to see his name tied to a child-indecency case that he was never involved in?

Brief summary: O'Kroley looked himself up on Google.com and found results seeming to tie him to a child-indecency case that he had no connection with. The objectionable information came from a third-party case-listing service: Fastcase, Inc. O'Kroley sued Fastcase and the search-engine giant Google for libel and invasion of privacy. The district court rejected O'Kroley's claims as a matter of law, holding that Google could not be held liable for how it displays search results. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, reasoning that the Communications Decency Act immunizes internet search-engine companies like Google from suits that try to treat them as publishers of third-party content.

Extended summary: Colin O'Kroley looked himself up on Google.com. The Google search-results page showed O'Kroley's name in a case caption just below a Texas Advance Sheet entry, published by Fastcase Inc., for an indecency-with-a-child case. O'Kroley had never been involved in a child-indecency case, yet anyone who viewed the Google results without clicking on the link would have seen the O'Kroley v. Pringle case listed immediately after a reference to indecency with a child.

Claiming he'd suffered severe mental anguish, O'Kroley sued for $19.2 trillion based on a number of legal theories, including libel and invasion of privacy. The district court held, as a matter of law, that the Communications Decency Act applied here. Under the Act, internet search providers like Google are immunized from claims that seek to treat them as publishers of third-party content.

O'Kroley, representing himself, appealed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court was correct and that the Communications Decency Act applied. The Sixth Circuit reasoned that because Google's internet search engine gives multiple users access to computer servers, it did not publish or speak these allegedly defamatory statements on its website. Google could not be held liable for merely providing server access and reproducing a third party's allegedly defamatory text. As an internet search provider, Google was immune.

Link to the case: http://www.opn.ca6.uscourts.go...ns.pdf/16a0172p-06.pdf

Panel: SUTTON and COOK, Circuit Judges; HOOD, District Judge. (The Honorable Joseph M. Hood, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky, sitting
by designation.)

Date of issued opinion: July 22, 2016

Docket number: 15-6336

Decided: July 22, 2016


Counsel: ON BRIEF: Eric P. Schroeder, Jacquelyn N. Schell, BRYAN CAVE LLP, Atlanta, Georgia, Rob S. Harvey, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, Brian M. Willen, Jason B. Mollick, WILSON SONSINI GOODRICH & ROSATI, P.C., New York, New York, for Appellee Google. Scot M. Graydon, OFFICE OF THE TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL, Austin, Texas, for Texas Court Appellees. Colin O'Kroley, Bon Aqua, Tennessee, pro se.

Author of opinion: SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

Case alert author: Peter J. Mancini, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School

Case alert circuit supervisor: Professor Mark Cooney

Edited: 08/03/2016 at 12:13 PM by Mark Cooney

    Posted By: Mark Cooney @ 08/03/2016 11:58 AM     6th Circuit  

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