A search marketer's antitrust lawsuit against Google in Ohio has caught the attention of the state's top law enforcement official, who this week filed a proposed friend-of-the-court brief against the search giant.
Specifically, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray is asking the court to reject Google's argument that the case should be dismissed. Google says that a federal law protects interactive computer services providers from liability for moves aimed at protecting Web users from potentially "objectionable" content.
But Cordray argues in court papers that Google's argument "would immunize an entire industry from the reach of this state's antitrust laws."
The matter stems from a lawsuit initially filed in state court in Columbus by Google against shopping search company myTriggers for allegedly failing to pay $335,000 in search marketing fees. MyTriggers filed a counterclaim alleging that its quality score was wrongfully dropped by Google, resulting in a 10,000% increase in the cost of search ads.
MyTriggers argues that the drop in quality score was part of an anticompetitive scheme "to ensure that Google can continue to exert control over search advertising." The shopping search site further asserted that it posed a threat to Google by monetizing searches on a cost-per-action basis, as opposed to Google's cost-per-click model.
In addition, myTriggers claims that it wasn't able to draw much traffic without advertising on Google because of the company's dominance in search.
Google recently filed papers arguing that the lawsuit should be dismissed for several reasons, including that the federal Communications Decency Act's "good samaritan" provisions shields it from liability for any steps taken to remove potentially objectionable content.
Google argues that its actions as a publisher -- including lowering companies' quality scores -- are the type of activity that is protected by the statute.
But MyTriggers and the Ohio attorney general argue that the Communications Decency Act doesn't apply in this case. Among other reasons, they say that the statute's good samaritan provisions only come into play when a company has removed material that could harm children because it's obscene, violent or otherwise offensive.
"Google is attempting to twist a statute that was designed to protect individuals from Internet malefactors into a shield to protect a monopolist's efforts to destroy the welfare of consumers," myTriggers argues in its court papers.
The law firm representing myTriggers, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, also represents another search marketer, Tradecomet.com, which is pursuing a similar antitrust case against Google.