Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law

Competition: Spring 2014 Vol. 23, No. 1

Content

DOES THE FIRST AMENDMENT IMMUNIZE GOOGLE’S SEARCH ENGINE SEARCH RESULTS FROM GOVERNMENT ANTITRUST SCRUTINY?

Paula Lauren Gibson1

I. INTRODUCTION

For several years now, Google has faced allegations from various fronts of purported violations of the antitrust laws in regards to its manipulation of its vertical shopping search engine results.2 Vertical shopping competitors3 have filed complaints with the FTC and the State Attorneys General.4 Those complaints alleged, among other things, that Google violated the antitrust laws5 by giving itself preferential treatment in the search results of its own properties through the manual manipulation of its search engine algorithm in order to demote the offerings of rivals, notwithstanding in some cases the alleged superior content of the rival pages.6

This article will address only one issue: Whether Google vertical shopping search engine results are "opinions" and, as such, would be protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution7 and/or its state counterparts8 from any regulation based on alleged violations of the antitrust laws?9

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