Google seeks dismissal of a Ohio lawsuit, saying its search engine isn't a public utility just because a lot of people use it

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Google seeks dismissal of a Ohio lawsuit, saying its search engine isn't a public utility just because a lot of people use it
A Google office. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
  • Google Search isn't a public utility just because it's popular, the company told an Ohio court.
  • Ohio's AG in June said Google prioritized its own products and needed to be regulated.
  • States have "no business dictating the online information it wants people to see," Google said.

Google on Friday sought dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Ohio's attorney general, saying its search engine wasn't a public utility just because it's popular.

"To claim, as Ohio does, that Google Search is a 'public utility' is to declare it a business that Ohio could acquire, construct, own or operate. But that is absurd," Google said in its filing. "The State could not possibly undertake such a burden for countless reasons, not the least of which is that it has no business dictating the online information it wants people to see."

Ohio AG Dave Yost in June sued Google, saying the company's search function should be regulated like a public utility - the same as water, electricity, and transportation companies.

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Google on Friday said the state's request "has no more validity under the law than a request to declare Fox News, the New York times, or Walmart a 'public utility' because most people in a particular town prefer to get their news or groceries from them instead of someone else."

Yost had said the company acted in an anti-competitive manner when it prioritized its own products, like Google Flights, alongside organic search results. Rival products should be offered up as often as Google's products were, the lawsuit said.

Google seeks dismissal of a Ohio lawsuit, saying its search engine isn't a public utility just because a lot of people use it
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Tony Dejak/AP Photo

Google said its results were protected under the First Amendment, since they were editorial decisions.

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"The State cannot interfere with this protected expression, let alone try to control what Google must or must not include on its Results Page," Google said.

The company's argument was also technical. The mechanics of how Google Search results end up on an Ohioan's computer were important, the company said. Google cannot be classified as a "common carrier" under Ohio law, in part because it doesn't actually carry anyone or anything. Internet service providers move the data, the company said.

"Google Search is not shipping a commodity product, but constantly working to provide useful information in response to people's unique queries," the company said.

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Insider has reached out to Google and Yost's office for comment.

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