Florida company fights Google over search results rankings

By Kerry Goff | Oct 23, 2016

MIAMI -- Wagoner Firm PLLC, an Albany law firm focused on startups, technology companies and securities, has been representing a Miami-based business in a suit against Google, which has not fared well for the internet giant.

Google was sued in 2014 by e-ventures Worldwide LLC of Florida, which offered techniques to improve search results rankings without having to pay Google, according to an Albany Business Review article.

The case  e-ventures v. Google alleged that Google delisted e-venture affiliated sites for violating Google's internal guidelines when no policy was broken. Attorney Matt Wagoner was hired to represent e-ventures with Rich Gora of Gora LLC in Stamford, Connecticut.

"Both of us have experience working on unfair competition cases, which is the basis," Wagoner told the Florida Record. "Google's defense is a First Amendment defense, which the court rejected so far. Ultimately, we believe there will be issues of fact that will require them to be tried."

According to the details in the official court document, during 2014, Google removed more than 300 websites affiliated with e-ventures from its search results starting after deciding the sites were “pure spam.” E-ventures claims it did not break Google's policy and argues that Google targeted e-ventures because it threatened Google's business model.

Google argued that the First Amendment protects their decision about how e-ventures’ websites appear in search results.

As a result of these removals, e-ventures’ websites could not be located by anyone using the Google.com search engine and they claim it severely hurt business.

"This case is the first case to survive motion to dismiss," Wagoner said. "It's a landmark for similarly situated businesses, any business that relies on Google for SEO purposes. It could result in a change in how [Google] does business."

In a Forbes article, it explained that e-venture also alleged that Google’s public statements about its removal policy were false, deceptive and misleading because they are inconsistent with what Google did to them.

“[E-ventures] alleges that Google’s conduct towards it was motivated by anti-competitive reasons and to punish plaintiff for engaging in ‘pure spam’ and not on the content of the websites,” the Forbes article said. “Google moved to dismiss the lawsuit. The court rejected virtually all of Google’s arguments.”

Forbes also explained that the court supported e-ventures every step of the way, which has put Google in an unfavorable situation.

“If, for whatever reason, [e-ventures] actually makes real substantive progress in this lawsuit, the implications for Google could be seismic,” the Forbes article said. “The plaintiff’s allegations go to the core of Google’s search indexing practices. If Google can’t freely decide to downgrade or de-index what it considers to be ‘pure spam,’ then Google faces liability pretty much any time it automatically or manually rejiggers its index (which always creates some winners and some potentially-litigious losers).”

This court case has become the virtual straw that may break the camel’s back, the Forbes article posited.

“It seems hard to believe that this case will be the one to break Google, especially given all of the prior attempts from more sympathetic plaintiffs, but that’s what makes this court’s initial ruling so disquieting,” it said.

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