JACKSON — Mississippi’s attorney general says a suit against him by Google should be dismissed.
In court papers filed Jan. 12, Democrat Jim Hood argues the Internet search giant’s assertion that it is protected by federal law fails to invalidate state laws under which he’s investigating, and that Google has jumped the gun because Hood doesn’t know what information his inquiry will yield.
“This lawsuit is nothing more than a brazen strategic maneuver on Google’s part to hinder the attorney general’s investigation into its possible violations of Mississippi law,” a lawyer for Hood wrote. “And for this, Google does not enjoy constitutional immunity from compliance with Mississippi’s consumer protection laws.”
Google, based in Mountain View, California, sued Hood in December, asking a judge to block him from pursuing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit against the company after Hood issued a subpoena for information about some of Google’s operations.
Google and Hood agreed to freeze the case until March 6, including Hood agreeing not to enforce its subpoena until then. A hearing is set Feb. 13 in Jackson before U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate.
The company claims that a 1996 federal law, the Communications Decency Act, “explicitly grants Internet service providers like Google broad immunity from a state enforcement action for doing precisely what the Attorney General has threatened to prosecute or sue Google for doing – making available content created by third parties.”
But Hood said Google is seeking a declaration that it could never violate the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act.
“Google cannot credibly argue that there is nothing the state of Mississippi may require of it under its consumer protection laws,” Hood states.
Hood said he’s not investigating passive display of others’ content by Google, but whether the company has misled Mississippi consumers about steps Google takes to protect consumers from illegal material, whether the company knowingly allows sites engaged in illegal activities to buy advertising, and whether Google’s autocomplete function means the company is developing its own illegal content and not just displaying content developed by others.
Working with others in the National Association of Attorneys General, Hood has been pushing Google since 2013 to prevent use of the company’s search engine to find illegal drugs and pirated music, video games and movies.
Google argued Hood has tried to force the company to restrict access to content through its search engine and advertising and on its video-sharing site, YouTube. But Hood denies his investigation will chill Google’s free speech rights.
“Notably absent from this contention is any specific instance in which constitutionally protected speech has actually been silenced or that Google has been forced to take any steps to remove otherwise protected speech as a result of the attorney general’s investigation,” Hood states.
He says that if Google objects to the 79-page subpoena he issued Oct. 21, it should fight it in state court.
“Google’s only potential danger is simply their fear of litigating in Mississippi state court,” said Hood, arguing against Google’s request for a restraining order.
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