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Search engine is like a newspaper; not like a town square

New public policy issues get resolved depending on which analogy wins. In one of the most significant lower-court decisions (this is likely to be appealed up) in recent times, the newspaper analogy won over the town square analogy. If this holds, Google and search engines become the new media. An interesting thought in light of the decline of old media. They move over to the content side, leaving only the telcos on the conduit side.

United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman in Manhattan concluded Thursday that the results produced by Baidu’s search engine constituted protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, warranting dismissal of the lawsuit, filed in May 2011.

“The First Amendment protects Baidu’s right to advocate for systems of government other than democracy (in China or elsewhere) just as surely as it protects plaintiffs’ rights to advocate for democracy,” the judge wrote.

Judge Furman likened a search engine’s “editorial judgment” to that of a newspaper editor who decides which stories to publish.

He also said there is a “strong argument” that the First Amendment immunizes search results from “most, if not all” kinds of civil liability and government regulation.

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