Google has defeated a lawsuit by business owner Dawn Bennett, who alleged that the company defamed her by displaying a disparaging blog post written by her former search marketing consultant.
In a ruling issued Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Communications Decency Act immunizes Google from liability for blog posts created by users.
The decision, which upheld a ruling issued last year by a trial judge, stems from a 2016 lawsuit filed by Bennett, a former financial adviser who currently owns the ecommerce business Bennett Holdings.
She sued over a blog post allegedly written by Scott Pierson, the founder of The Executive SEO Agency -- which she had hired in 2013, according to the opinion. Bennett's business relationship with Pierson broke down after several months, the judges wrote.
Pierson subsequently criticized Bennett in a blog post, published via Google, that included the following language: "I urge you to think twice before giving your patronage to DJ Bennett.com . . . . The website is pretty, but the person running the show is quite contemptible," according to the court's opinion.
Bennett alleged that she asked Google to remove Pierson's post. When the company didn't do so, she sued Google for defamation and other claims.
She argued that Google wasn't entitled to the Communications Decency Act's protections on the grounds that the post violated Google's blogger guidelines. which prohibit "harassment" and other objectionable content.
"By ignoring Pierson’s blog, after being put on notice it violated its guidelines, Google accepted and embraced its content and thereby lost its immunity from liability," she argued.
The D.C. Circuit judges rejected that argument, ruling that Google was immune from liability.
Google "did not edit Pierson’s post nor did it dictate what Pierson should write," the judges wrote.
They added: "If Bennett takes issue with Pierson’s post, her legal remedy is against Pierson himself."