Canada’s Supreme Court ruling latest blow for Google.
In the same week that the Alphabet subsidiary was fined a record breaking $2.4bn by European regulators, Canada’s Supreme court ruled that Canadian based courts do have the power to force Google to remove search results worldwide.
The possibly groundbreaking ruling by the Canadian supreme court says: “The internet has no borders – its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates – globally.”
David vs Goliath
The ruling in this particular case stemmed from an attempt a (relatively) small Canadian based tech company by the name of Equustek Solutions Inc. The company manufactures network devices. Equustek claimed that one of their global distributors, Datalink Technologies Gateways, was relabeling one of its products and selling it online as its own product. Equustek also claimed that Datalink Tech had also acquired trade secrets to design and manufacture a competing product. The supreme court ruled 7-2 in favor of upholding the original decision of a lower British Columbia court.
Google involved, but not involved, but totally involved
In something of a contradiction, Google itself was never actually directly named in the lawsuit. That said, Google did originally voluntarily accede to an Equustek request to remove Datalink search results until the associated allegations were dealt with. The problem was that Google only blocked the search results in the Canada specific Google search engine.
Google had appealed and lost two lower court battles in the Equustek case. The Supreme court has now upheld that ruling. Datalink originally denied the allegations of the British Columbia based Equustek tech company, before apparently fleeing the country, and continuing its business in other jurisdictions. As a result, no representatives from Datalink were present in any of the court room hearings to defend themselves.
Google’s appeals centered on the fact that the global reach of the decision was firstly unnecessary, and that it also raised concerns about an open internet, and freedom of expression. The Canadian supreme court countered that Google’s argument over freedom of expression was essentially, rubbish:
“This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.”
David Christopher, a spokesperson for OpenMedia, a Candian based group that campaigns for open communications, said: “There is great risk that governments and commercial entities will see this ruling as justifying censorship requests that could result in perfectly legal and legitimate content disappearing off the web because of a court order in the opposite corner of the globe.”
As the court ruling comes from the Canadian supreme court, Google cannot appeal the ruling. A Google spokesperson said simply, that the company is “reviewing the court’s findings and evaluating our next steps.”