FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTION FOR SEARCH ENGINE SEARCH RESULTS1
By Eugene Volokh2 and Donald M. Falk3
Once, the leading sources to which people turned for useful information were newspapers, guidebooks, and encyclopedias. Today, these sources also include search engine results, which people use (along with other sources) to learn about news, local institutions, products, services, and many other matters. Then and now, the First Amendment has protected all these forms of speech from government attempts to regulate what they present or how they present it. And this First Amendment protection has applied even when the regulations were motivated by a concern about what some people see as "fairness."
Google, Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo! Search, and other search engines are speakers. First, they sometimes convey information that the search engine company has itself prepared or compiled (such as information about places appearing in Google Places). Second, they direct users to material created by others, by referencing the titles of Web pages that the search engines judge to be most responsive to the query, coupled with short excerpts from each page. Such reporting about others’ speech is itself constitutionally protected speech.