Earlier this year Google was forced to de-list Datalink Technologies Gateways websites on its search engine worldwide following a judgment in the Canadian Supreme Court, after it was revealed that Datalink was stealing, copying and reselling industrial network interface hardware and trade secrets from Equustek Solutions Inc, a small British Columbian company.
Google had originally deleted more than 300 webpages from its search results following complaints by Equustek, but could not keep pace with new pages being made and listed. Equustek then obtained an injunction from the British Columbian Courts ordering Google to impose a worldwide ban on Datalink’s websites. The injunction was deemed necessary as Google controlled 75% of the global searches on the internet allowing Datalink to sell the stolen information to the wider public worldwide. The Canadian Supreme Court re-enforced the injunction in the Canadian case of Google Inc v Equustek Solutions Inc, 2017 SCC 34.
Google argued that the Supreme Court of Canada did not have legal authority to impose a worldwide injunction, stating that since Google is headquartered in the US its actions can only be influenced by US laws.
Consequently, Google fought the enforcement of the worldwide injunction in US courts, stating that the ruling handed down by Canada’s Supreme Court should not be upheld as Canada had no right to interfere with the American constitutional rights. They alleged that the judgment infringes the right to freedom of expression within the US Constitutional First Amendment, which not only prohibits governmental restrictions on the content of a speech but also includes the right of individuals to be able to freely access information.
Google successfully applied for the Canadian injunction to be set-aside in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Judge Edward Davila argued that forcing intermediaries like Google and other search engines to remove links to third-party content posed a direct threat to free speech on the global internet. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the US also supported Google’s case, which grants internet services immunity from listing content created by third parties. It states that “third-party internet hosts cannot be held liable for offensive or illegal material generated by other parties”.
However, groups like Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, expressed concern that most companies do not have Google’s resources to fight these battles and that more needs to be done to stop foreign courts from issuing extensive internet injunctions in the future.