A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Google by a company that accused the Web search engine of dropping Web sites from search results for political and religious reasons and skewing search results in favor of companies that compensate Google financially.
The lawsuit was filed by KinderStart, a parenting information Web site that claims it was illegally blocked from Google search results.
Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, Calif., not only dismissed the lawsuit but granted a motion by Google to sanction KinderStart and one of its lawyers.
Fogel said Google can now seek "reasonable compensation" for attorney fees because KinderStart lawyer Gregory Yu filed claims that were factually baseless and did not perform an adequate investigation before filing the lawsuit.
Yu's claim that Google gives higher search placements to companies that pay for that privilege "should not have been made based upon the limited information identified by Yu," Fogel wrote in a ruling issued Friday. "Yu's purported evidence is either double hearsay or hearsay speculation as to the 'mysterious' causes of improvement in a Web site's position in Google's search results. Yu provides no evidence that would support KinderStart's broad attacks on the objectivity of Google's search results."
Judge Fogel said KinderStart's allegation that Google removes Web sites from search results based on political and religious reasons was also baseless.
"KinderStart does not appear to allege that KinderStart itself suffered any discrimination by Google for political or religious reasons," Fogel wrote. "It is true that Yu spoke with a number of people who believe that Google engages in religious or political discrimination, but a reasonable, competent investigation requires more than suspicions or belief. Yu had a professional responsibility to refrain from filing such allegations if he did not have appropriate supporting evidence."
In response to the ruling, Google released a statement from Hilary Ware, the company's litigation counsel: "We always felt these claims were unjustified, because courts have consistently rejected complaints over search engine rankings, so we're pleased that Judge Fogel promptly dismissed this case."
KinderStart may still be considering further action against Google.
"All options are being explored. That's all that we are going to say at this point," Yu told news agency Reuters.