Is this the end of search engines?
A recent court case Downunder in Australia, found Google guilty of being party to libelous content which tied a man to organised crime. Did Google write the content? No, but they "published" it according to the jury, and the judge gave them the proverbial wet bus ticket" with a $200,000 fine - what's that, a minute's worth of income? A second's?
Understandably, Google is appealing the case (well, they sure can afford to!), but it's not about the money. It's all about the precedent. Google claimed that it merely listed the link to the content, and that the view expressed herein do not necessarily, blah, blah, blah! The jury and judge saw different.
A page of their own making
Part of the reason was that it wasn't just the "link listing", but Google also had the plaintiff listed in their images with not-very-subtle allusions to his crime connections. This, the judge said, was much more than mere link listing. This was a sophisticated cut and paste of others' content into a page of Google's own making.
I will agree with Google (something I really DON'T like to do!) that their algorithm just goes out, finds content, then delivers it in the most meanigful way to searchers (well, that's the party line - I'm not sure I quite agree with the last bit, but that's the theory). But it's written by humans who know what it does and what it's capable of. They're no different to hard copy media who have to be cognizant of what they're offering in their publications.
Oh poor us, we're so wrongly maligned!
Get over it Google! In the 4th quarter of last year, Google reported earnings of over $10 billion. But does that exempt them from playing by the rules everybody else has to? They seem to think so.
Let's say I started a business that sold whatever, it doesn't matter, that used drop-shipping from another company. My clients merrily purchase from me, I send the money to the other company and they drop-ship the product. But it turns out the product is faulty, dangerous, never delivered, etc. Who should my customer come to? Me of course. I can't claim "I didn't know", "It's not my fault". But that's, essentially, what Goog;e are doing. "We didn't know", "We only report listings".
The 10 count?
So will this see a major shift, or even the demise of search engines? Nope! Google has already been through at least 2 other court cases and an out-of-court settlement like this. Even if the Aussie case stuck, at a $200,000 fine versus a $10 billion quarter, monetary fines are, pretty much, going to be useless. And would any court ever consider shutting down a giant like Google...?
It comes down to the (business) Golden Rule, "He/They who have the gold, make the rules!"