Google made its case in court this week against Canadian courts having the ability to order the internet search giant to block search results worldwide.
Google’s lawyer—who appeared in a British Columbia court earlier this week—was armed with a recent California ruling that said one country’s judges deciding what the rest of the world sees in their search results “threatens free speech on the global internet.”
This week’s court appearances are the latest chapter in a legal drama that began in 2014. In that year, a lawsuit between two small companies (one had accused the other of selling knockoff goods online) resulted in an injunction ordering Google to de-list search results for the defendant’s company globally. That ruling was upheld by a BC appeals court in 2015, and again by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2017.
Digital rights and free speech activists worried that Canadian courts’ new powers could be used to silence legitimate speech. Google, a third party in the case, was put in a position that required it to defend itself in court.
In November of 2017, Google’s work paid off. A California court ruled that the order to de-list search results globally threatened free speech online. The 2014 order stated that Google could appeal to modify the injunction if they could prove that it forced them to act illegally in another jurisdiction, which the November order effectively says.
“I agree with Google’s counsel that the authority and basis of that judgment does engage the core values of freedom of expression in the United States,” a BC judge wrote in their decision to grant Google another hearing in light of the California ruling, adding that free speech is treated differently in Canada and the US, which necessitates a review of the original order.
According to the Vancouver Sun, the lawyers for Equustek—the plaintiff in the original 2014 case—argued in BC court this week that nothing has changed, and Google is making the same arguments it has for years.
A trial to settle the issues between Equustek and the defendant, a man named Morgan Jack, is scheduled to occur in April.
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