A San Francisco court has ruled Google has the right to order its search results any way it likes.
Gigaom reports the ruling, which is the first since 2007 to address Google’s rights under the US constitution, was the result of legal action taken by a website called CoastNews, which argued Google had unfairly pushed it far down in its search results.
The Californian-based media website claimed its site appeared at the top of results on search engines Bing and Yahoo and suggested the poor rankings were because Google wanted to eliminate CoastNews as a potential competitor.
Google challenged the lawsuit on the grounds it stifled free speech and was against the First Amendment.
Judge Ernest Goldsmith agreed the suit related to “constitutionally protected activity.”
Gigaom says the decision comes as companies like Yelp or Travelocity complain that Google, as it moves into fields like restaurants and travel, can use its power over search results to help its own websites at the expense of rivals.
In Europe, regulators are moving to impose a series of measures – such as forcing Google to display rivals’ ads in a prominent place — intended to address the company’s allegedly anti-competitive conduct.
While the decision will likely hold no sway globally, it sets a tricky precedent for companies who find themselves at the mercy of the search giant.