back to article Google – you DO control your search results, thunders Canadian court

A Canadian court has rejected Google's claim that it can't control its own search engine, and concluded that the web giant can in fact rein in its vast army of machines. The case – Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc., 2015 BCCA 265 – was brought by network equipment manufacturer Equustek. It revolves around the de-listing …

  1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

    De-indexing is not the same as removing

    Surely the courts should be going after the website and getting that shutdown. A search engine is just an index, the offending material is still out there.

    1. Irongut

      Re: De-indexing is not the same as removing

      Taking Google to court is cheaper than taking 345 individual websites to court in 345 separate cases. Manufacturing is a very low margin business so the cheaper option is the better one even if it is not pefect. Sure it's still possible to visit the sites but they will be a lot harder to find if they don't show on Google.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: De-indexing is not the same as removing

        I suppose Microsoft should feel insulted because nobody seems to mind Bing still finds the same thing just fine...?

    2. PleebSmash
      FAIL

      Re: De-indexing is not the same as removing

      Canadian court says: linking is a crime!

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: De-indexing is not the same as removing

        Linking isn't a crime, but links to sites which are illegal should be removed.

    3. Breech

      Re: De-indexing is not the same as removing

      The courts have gone after the original website that Datalink ran. Datalink just opened several hundred other sites in response. Datalink is like a virus, getting Google to de-index their sites is like keeping the virus from its host. May not kill the virus but makes it significantly more difficult to reproduce.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: De-indexing is not the same as removing

      The problem, according to the original article is that they are setting up new websites faster than they can take down the old ones. Therefore delisting is also an important part of the enforcing of the ruling - although it shouldn't be the only part.

      Google also doesn't seem to have problems delisting websites and companies they have arguments with - remember the BMW case, where they removed BMW from their results, because of the way they were getting referral links?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > ... only practical way for the defendants’ websites to be made inaccessible.

    Of course removing listings from Google's search doesn't actually make the website inaccessible.

    It worries me that people making judgements in these matters are so badly informed.

    I agree though that there are serious implications in suggesting that a legal system can make legal pronouncements on the activities being performed in another country. What seems reasonable here may not be reasonable in another country. What if the boot is on the other foot and an Islamic state makes legal pronouncements regarding websites in Canada?

    1. Squander Two

      > Of course removing listings from Google's search doesn't actually make the website inaccessible.

      Of course not. But look at what's actually happening here. No-one knows the URLs of these sites, which are being created anew constantly in at attempt to circumvent and existing judgement. The only purpose of the sites is to get search result hits. Without the search hits, the sites may still be accessible, but no-one's actually going to try to access them.

      > there are serious implications in suggesting that a legal system can make legal pronouncements on the activities being performed in another country.

      Yeah, but they're not really. They're pronouncing on activities being performed with a different set of letters after the final dot in the URL. And, since Google can reliably detect your country of origin, there's no issue here.

      Even if they were, this is hardly a new cyber thing. The Nuremburg trials applied some countries' legal ideas to other countries. It happens.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only reason Google is fighting...

    .... is that it would be forced to admit that they do have control over the search results and thus can be accused of acting in an anti-competitive way in the EU case.

    1. NotWorkAdmin

      Re: The only reason Google is fighting...

      Really? I'd have thought by now it was obvious to anyone they no longer control the results directly. The algorithm is simply too complex for a single human to be able to predict it's behaviour. They have to tweak it and see what changes - not plan changes and implement specific tweaks to accomplish them.

      1. Matt Collins

        Re: Re: The only reason Google is fighting...

        Please don't guess, you've made yourself look quite silly. This doesn't require interference with the search algorithm. It's a case of removing it from (and not re-adding it to) the index.

        They must have tools for it already - consider, for instance, how they comply with requests to remove links to child pornography.

        1. NotWorkAdmin

          Re: The only reason Google is fighting...

          @matt somehow, you appear to have misunderstood everything I said. Bravo.

          1. Matt Collins

            Re: The only reason Google is fighting...

            Nope. You've misunderstood how search engines work - and, yes, I'm qualified. Your mistake is to confuse the code and the data.

            1. Matt Collins

              Re: The only reason Google is fighting...

              ...and by that I mean artificial promotion/demotion is a data thing, not a code thing. There'll not be any code in the search algorithm that identifies Google properties and boosts them per se, but there is (allegedly) a part of the index builder that does. Then the search algorithm will naturally do its thing... subtle, isn't it?

              1. Squander Two

                Re: The only reason Google is fighting...

                Though you have a good point, it doesn't matter. Even if it were difficult or awkward for Google to comply with the law, tough shit. The rest of us have to comply with it. So can they.

                I'm sick to death of hearing reworded versions of "But obeying the law is inconvenient to Google's business plan." A car thief could say the same.

  4. Laura Kerr

    No sovereignty here

    “Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.”

    Yep, that's how it was, and TBH it worked pretty well - at least until Marketing, Commerce and World+Dog all came piling in. But for a few early years, before the Internet became mainstream, 'cyberspace' was quite a cool, albeit elitist, place to be.

    From someone old enough to remember.

    1. Vector

      Re: No sovereignty here

      "... and there is no matter here."

      Aside from a bit of hardware whose design was purloined from a competitor which is being flogged from a moving truck throwing websites out left and right.

      By that theory, all marketing should be exempt from law. Sure, cyberspace was once a lovely place. Then the rest of the real world moved in. Now, it's just another place.

  5. Credas Silver badge

    Google-bashing aside...

    What is it that a Canadian court, and El Reg's head honcho, and the rest of us, would agree is a sensible way of dealing with these issues?

    The reported comments by the court seem to imply in one place that UK-style geo-blocking is the required solution, but then in another that the search results should be removed globally because, trust us, nobody could possibly disagree with what we decided in this case in Canada. And we wouldn't be nasty in less clear-cut cases, and demand global removal that would affect other peoples' rights. The problem with that, of course, is that if that approach took off then any court in any country could demand global removal - and not every court would be as scrupulous in defending third parties' rights as this particular Canadian judge.

    For all its limitations I can only see that geo-blocking is a viable solution, for all it's manifest limitations. The extra-territorial way this court seems to be leaning would be ominous indeed.

    1. Daggerchild Silver badge

      Re: Google-bashing aside...

      It's really amusing. The Evil isn't in Canada (anymore), but feeds off a Canadian company's customers (who aren't really in Canada either, so Geoblocking at Canadian ISP's is pointless). The Court really does not have the power to help, but it knows someone who might...

      So the Court reaches out of Canada, grabs a passing Google by the scruff, and drops them, flapping and squalking, on top of the extra-territorial Evil to smother it, where it will hold them, maintaining pressure, until the problem goes away :)

      "Sorry Google, I know this one isn't your fault, but, dangit, you're just so convenient, eh?" :-)

      We'll see this more and more, simply because Google are the *only* entity with the necessary power, and needs must when the devil drives.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Google-bashing aside...

        Hrm. If a country ordered Google to remove something globally, couldn't they also order Google not to tell anyone it was removed?

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Google-bashing aside...

          Heh! Speaking of:

          http://www.cnil.fr/english/news-and-events/news/article/cnil-orders-google-to-apply-delisting-on-all-domain-names-of-the-search-engine/

    2. mevets

      amicus pistorum, perhaps

      Courts have a long tradition of viewing other jurisdictions as friendly, in that they apply similar principles and vigour in their processes. Perhaps Google should invite various countries to pledge themselves as friends of the chocolate factory; and in doing so would be able to have verdicts, such as this one, have a global rather than regional scope.

      Canada is on the verge of a blindingly incompetent (or startlingly corrupt) bit of legislation to dilute most of our rights. It would be interesting to have a corporate interest be able to yank us in the right direction for a change....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Streisand effect

    It would appear that Equustek may have shot itself in the foot because of the Streisand effect, especially if this ruling only applies to Google - there are other search engines out there.

    The fact that they are making such a fuss about it will get people wondering and hence looking at the alternative.

    As others have said how can a Canadian judge have any say about what happens in other parts of the world, or has the 'American Way of Justice' rubbed off on her?

  7. Matt Collins

    Dissembling

    Why should Google be treated differently from Yellow Pages or Thomson Local or any other listing or directory service in this respect? They can be compelled to remove entries and no-one would bat an eyelid and they probably wouldn't kick up a fuss about it either.

    I should disclose that I have been very closely involved with the development of an organic search engine and can see no logic behind Google's argument and regard it as dissembling. The judge is absolutely right.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dissembling

      Well, I'm sure that there would be raised eyebrows if a Canadian court tried to influence the Yellow Pages that were printed and distributed in the UK.

      1. Matt Collins

        Re: Dissembling

        That's right @skelband, but not really my point. Imagine they distribute listings of Canadian businesses in Canada, as a business domiciled abroad they are the same as Google in these respects.

        So, let me put it this way: If your listings are in print, you must obey the laws of the countries you export to or trade in (despite the obvious permanence of your medium) - but put it on a screen (instant removal!) and it magically isn't covered by any laws whatsoever, anywhere?

        1. Daggerchild Silver badge

          Re: Dissembling

          but put it on a screen (instant removal!) and it magically isn't covered by any laws whatsoever, anywhere?
          You do understand that a Canadian court just edited a non-Canadian company's webserver, because it was serving non-Canadian information to non-Canadians, via not-Canada, and even though the company hadn't actually broken any Canadian laws, someone else, somewhere else had, and *they* had once been in Canada.

          Personally I like the bit where Googlebot spidering Canadian web pages supports their jurisdiction over Google ;-)

        2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Dissembling

          In case you ain't figured it out yet, Google is a person with rights under US law. It can print pretty much anything it damn well wants, under US law, and export it unless there is an import embargo in place in Canada. [I know this part pretty damn well. Wanted to be a factor.] If Canada has a problem with a book that they publish, then they don't ship it there. Voluntarily. Should anyone do so Google or a factor, Canada seizes it at the border and more than likely slaps the factor with a fine for even thinking about following through. The enforcement happens at the border. Your problem seems to be that you expect your courts to tell Google that they can't follow through on their First Amendment rights and publish. It's not their problem if somebody, a telecommunications corporation, imports that book ignoring a ruling by your courts that importation of this content is illegal.

          If you have a problem with something a US citizen publishes, stop it at the border. You have no rights under our laws or international law to tell someone in the US that they are not allowed to publish anything anywhere. So long as it is legal in the US. Notice, we aren't talking about Canada now, this is about our rights in our country. Not Canada. The US courts are the ones with jurisdiction. Not Canada. Your only recourse, aside from filtering or embargoing Google internet traffic at the Canadian border, is to sue in the US. I'll warn you right off, you better have an asbestos-grade suit as the Supreme's have reserved such things as these to a category called "constitutionally suspect."

          The other post handled tortious interference.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dissembling

          Except of course Google are distributing potentially to the entire world.

          If they are to follow all the laws of every single country that could access that site then that's a pretty fall order. After China gets to redacr what their courts don't like followed by Iran and the Arab countries I think you mind that there is very little left.

          1. Squander Two

            Re: Dissembling

            > If they are to follow all the laws of every single country that could access that site then that's a pretty fall order.

            Oh, boo hoo. Poor Google, developing an incredibly lucrative business plan based on the assumption that they could operate in every jurisdiction on the planet while only obeying US law (and not all of that).

            No-one forced them into this business. They chose it. If it's too difficult, they are entitled to chuck it in.

            Every business faces tall orders all the time. There are little corner shops and builders' merchants and restaurants in your town who have to spend a fortune on obeying legislation. Sometimes it's extraordinarily difficult for them. Where's the army of tech geeks arguing that legislation shouldn't apply to them when obeying it is too hard?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Dissembling

              > No-one forced them into this business. They chose it. If it's too difficult, they are entitled to chuck it in.

              Personally, I don't give a flying f*ck about Google. I do care about extra-territorial jurisdiction though and so should we all.

              It's all very well when it's working in a way that *you* like, but if an islamic state makes impositions in ways that you object to, hard shit.

    2. Matt Collins

      Re: Dissembling

      To the downvoters - if YP print a directory and distribute it in a territory, they are surely bound by the publishing laws of that territory, no? So you think Google isn't publishing it's listings in that territory? How come? I'm sure the world's courts are thinking that you're wrong.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Dissembling

        The insanity here is that a Canadian court has ruled that it has jurisdiction over the acts of anyone (corporations are people in the US) on the planet. Huh? I have a 1st Amendment right here to run a website on my (awesome) server and connect it to the internet through my provider. So long as I'm not violating any US laws. Period. I can also contract with Google for promotional reasons and I'm supposed to have some reasonable (to Google) visibility on the internet.

        Now a Canadian court comes along and says I'm a naughty boy because I have a link or advertisement to some evil, in a Canadian corporation and under a Canadian court's purview, corporation-X. Said Canadian court grants itself jurisdiction world-wide over my contractual arrangement with Google for promotion of my site. That's called tortious interference. Now I go off to my courts and sue you in my US courts which actually do have jurisdiction over my contractual rights with Google. I sincerely hope the Canadian company has no assets in US jurisdictional reach, and the US has an awfully long arm as anybody dealing in US dollars is under their jurisdiction.

        And that doesn't even address Constitutional rights. Not the First, I'm talking about the Fourth, Fifth, and probably parts of the Ninth and Tenth since Canada isn't mentioned as having any rights here while I do have them. Here. Reserved. There is an out for Canada. If a court wishes to assert jurisdiction, fine. They can geoblock Google or if they are feeling really frisky, attempt to force Google to geoblock Canada. Meanwhile, methinks some popcorn is called for.

        Icon definitely appropriate as this would be a nuclear weapon being delivered to Canada. Jurisdiction, representation, appellate, Supreme Court oh my!

    3. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Dissembling

      Some people might think there is a difference between taking money for posting ads, like the YP do, and also Google, although not, apparently for Datalink, and what Google apparently is being ordered to stop, responding to a search engine query. Very few would think compelling them to remove paid ads from a fraudster, but telling them to remove non-advertisement search results is bothersome to US First Amendment supporters like me.

  8. Aedile
    FAIL

    Another bad law/ruling

    The reasons why this is a stupid ruling is as follows:

    1. Google does not operate in Canada. They have no operations, staff or servers or anything else in the country and therefore should not fall under the jurisdiction of Canada since they clearly do NOT operate there. The judges are basically saying because stuff is available to Canada they fall under their jurisdiction. However, under this ruling if there was a 1 person shop in China and you ordered something from them then they are in fact operating in whichever country you live. That is stupid.

    2. Injunctions are filed against people who actually break the law not third party individuals who have nothing to do with the actual crime.

    3. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If Google has to conform to whatever BS every country that can access Google.com wants then we are going to have a search engine that displays jack *hit. Don't think so? China right now requires Google to block all searches for Tiananmen Square on Google.CN. Do you honestly think they wouldn't want it also blocked on Google.com? How about Russia disagreeing with and possibly wanting to block homosexual websites? How about Iran stopping Israeli websites?

    Stop being stupid. Please think of the children.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another bad law/ruling

      Of course Google operates in Canada! They have an engineering office in Waterloo. And that aside, they almost certainly have salespeople there too.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: Another bad law/ruling

      > 1. Google does not operate in Canada.

      Are you sure - because if Google thought that, they could have just told the court to sod off. The fact that they bothered to run up suggest that they do in fact have some presence there.

      > 2. Injunctions are filed against people who actually break the law not third party individuals who have nothing to do with the actual crime.

      Wrong again. If Google provide links to the criminal's sites then it is assisting the criminal. Here in the UK there is a specific offence of assisting an offender - so if you know someone committed a crime and don't shop them, you are guilty of a crime yourself. You don't have to have had anything whatsoever to do with the original crime itself.

      I imagine Canada probably has something similar.

      But if you read the article, you'll see specific reference to not imposing extra-territorial orders in general. In this case, the court decided that it's highly unlikely that any other jurisdiction would be "offended" by the imposition of an order who's sole purpose is to interrupt a criminal activity which is probably an offence even in China.

    3. iLuddite

      Re: Another bad law/ruling

      "...this is a stupid ruling." "That is stupid." "Stop being stupid."

      "Google does not operate in Canada. They have no operations, staff or servers or anything else in the country... since they clearly do NOT operate there."

      Did you Google "Google in Canada"? I did, and found four physical addresses in four cities. Having a bad day?

      Disappointing though. I was charmed by the idea of a large piece of the planet with no Google tracking cookies on connected devices. Perhaps there is one still.

      1. Aedile

        Re: Another bad law/ruling

        Not really a bad day. Just tired of seemingly every country believing they get to decide for the whole world what is ok. Tired of watching our freedoms get chipped away under the guise of what is good for us and to keep us safe. The EU deciding if everyone on the planet needs to "forget" something. Canada deciding you don't really need to see that page. Does it matter that people being affected don't live in that country or follow their laws?

        I also don't understand how people can fail to see the terrible precedent this sets. If Canada can have their law apply to the world why can't more restrictive regimes? Can anyone tell me what would make this ruling (or the EUs) any more or less valid than one from N. Korea, Iran, Burma, Cuba, Saudi Arabia or China? Example: In Saudi Arabia any speech deemed immoral or critical of the royal family are illegal and can lead to prison or corporal punishment. What prevents Saudi courts from ruling some picture is immoral (ie a woman showing more than her hands) and requesting it be blocked on Google.com? Is this really the internet we want?

    4. glussier

      Re: Another bad law/ruling

      I'm sorry, but Google has 3 offices in Canada: Mississauga and Toronto Ontario, and finally Montreal Quebec.

      1. Aedile

        Re: Another bad law/ruling

        Maybe the appeals court is wrong. A direct quote from the ruling:

        "While Google does not have servers or offices in the Province and does not have resident staff here, I agree with the chambers judge’s conclusion that key parts of Google’s business are carried on here. The judge concentrated on the advertising aspects of Google’s business in making her findings. In my view, it can also be said that the gathering of information through proprietary web crawler software (“Googlebot”) takes place in British Columbia. This active process of obtaining data that resides in the Province or is the property of individuals in British Columbia is a key part of Google’s business."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of couse Google control the search results

    IT is their frigging algorithm in the first place.

    Then there are the entries promoted by Adwords. The more you pay the higher up the list your site goes.

    Bling is no better either.

    Thankfully my website is nowhere to be found on Google or Bing. This is deliberate btw.

  10. Snowy

    So...

    Google is in court but what of the other search engines out there?

  11. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
    WTF?

    We (US) have only ourselves to blame

    As per usual the actions of ICE, unilaterally and without due process, seizing domain names and sites, even including those not with US-based registrars and/or hosting providers got the whole ball rolling. Toss in various court rulings asserting similar jurisdiction over the rest of the internet and the Canadian ruling is just more of the same. [Completely ignoring that Battleship in the room called the Five-Eyes and unilateral NSA/FBI/DEA/whateverTLA's activities.]

    This is one of the few cases where it's the Chinese seem to have a clue. If you don't like the internet related activities of some actor-Y visible in country-X get a ruling to apply to all domains in your registry. Then block the other sites outside your country control. China can do anything it wants under .CN and block the shit out of .com, .net, .anyotherTLD.

    I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop when some country-X rules that all pornographic, blasphemous, lèse-majesté, or pick anything other from the myriad insane laws on this planet, are ruled to apply to any provider on the planet under the jurisdiction of each and every court. We've got to figure out this jurisdictional problem fast. Which won't happen.

    I don't care how you solve it, it needs to be solve. All Planned Parenthood sites and similar material? Think people!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The precedent

    The way the Canadian court looked at Google's claim of not being within the jurisdiction of Canadian courts, as a business, was that because at the end of the linking and redirection, Google placed customers into contact with Datalink - a Canadian company (and we will use that term loosely as there are several court orders in place demanding it cease and desist its business operations according to other news articles). At some point, Google placed or redirected traffic into Canada, therefore it is carrying on its business in Canada.

    The precedent for that is from Google's home country, the US. It is a virtual mirror of the interpretation of the same US laws being used to go after FIFA executives even though virtually none of the crimes people are being charged with actually occurred within the US.

    It is the view of the Justice Department that any crime that takes place anywhere on/using the internet is subject to US law if any portion of that crime is routed through a US server or US territory. Can anyone put forth an argument why Americans should be protected from the kinds of laws the US has already set up for non-Americans?

    While many seem hung up on 1st amendment rights; this issue has nothing to do with freedom of expression. What Datalink was doing was criminal. What Google was doing was facilitating criminal activity. The crime Datalink was guilty of in Canada is also a crime it would have been guilty of in the US which means that by the conventions in place between the two countries, Google must comply or face the consequences.

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