A federal court in California has blocked implementation of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling that ordered Google to delist websites associated with a company called Datalink from Google’s global index. The Canadian decision (Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions) was an example of a court in one country asserting authority over global activity outside its jurisdiction.
Because Google exhausted its appeals in Canada, the company filed an action in the US District Court in Northern California, asserting that the Canadian decision violates US law. The US federal court agreed with Google and issued a preliminary injunction — effectively overruling the Canadian Supreme Court:
Congress recognized that free speech on the internet would be severely restricted if websites were to face tort liability for hosting user-generated content . . . It responded by enacting Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act], which grants broad immunity to online intermediaries . . .
The Canadian order would eliminate Section 230 immunity for service providers that link to third-party websites. By forcing intermediaries to remove links to third-party material, the Canadian order undermines the policy goals of Section 230 and threatens free speech on the global internet.
Google will likely get a permanent injunction. It can then take that injunction to the Canadian court and seek to modify the latter’s ruling to apply to Google’s Canadian index alone. It’s not clear what would happen if the Canadian court refused to do so.
This issue also exists in France in the context of the “right to be forgotten,” where French privacy regulators want Google to remove content from its global index. Google is now before the highest European court to attempt to limit de-indexing to Europe.