Published by LawTechie - December 13, 2011 - LawTechie

American Income Life Insurance (which received negative consumer reviews on and is suing Google for showing those sites in its search results… cue the irony of publicizing bad reviews with a weird and highly public lawsuit. As reported in MediaPost:

Before filing suit, American Income Life proposed that Google could avoid litigation by agreeing to return the disparaging results in less prominent positions. “Please allow me to suggest this reasonable solution: after convincing yourself of the true nature of these postings, change their listing priority to below page two (or below 25th individual ranking) for your search engine’s results when ‘American Income Life Insurance Company’ is employed as a search term,” attorney William Baxley wrote in a May 12 letter to Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond.

So plaintiff is willing to settle for Google’s promise to dirty its own reputation with consumers. Nice.

I sometimes get calls from litigious clients who want to sue Google, Citysearch, Yelp, etc… for republishing bad consumer reviews at which point I explain that while we can go after the review writer for libel (assuming the review is not mere opinion and is not a lie), but Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act clearly and unambiguously immunizes internet re-publishers like the above publications from lawsuits.

The insurance company’s attorney has also heard of this little Federal law, but has decided to proceed with the lawsuit anyway because, “Section 230 makes them think they’re invincible. They’re the bullies that can do anything they want to… We’ve found a [state] statute and a theory to get around that.”

Evidently plaintiff’s attorney has never heard Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution (a.k.a. the “Supremacy Clause”).

Personal opinion (and I include this to link back my forthcoming told-you-so post): Plaintiff will get sanctioned.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.


Enter your email to get started.