Feeds

Australia's top court says Google's iffy ads do not mislead

Regulator smacked down in big win for ad giant

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Australia's High Court, the nation's ultimate tribunal from which no appeal is possible, has overturned lower courts' decisions that found Google misled and deceived users.

At issue in the case was whether Google is responsible for the words and links its advertisers choose. The case arose after an online classifieds site bought ads that appeared when users searched for two car dealers. The ads mentioned those dealers, but instead linked to the classifieds site. No information was provided that would give users any reason to suspect the ads would direct them to the classifieds site, and the site had no information about the dealers.

Australia's Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) felt such ads were “misleading and deceptive”, a phrase that rings loud alarm bells under Australian law, and took Google and the classifieds site to court. After an early loss, the ACCC won in Australia's Federal Court and the classifieds site was slapped. But Google appealed, as it was not keen to vet the many ads it receives every day .

The High Court has now delivered Google the result it wanted, with the summary of the judgement (the full judgement was not available at the time of writing) offering this analysis:

“Google did not create the sponsored links that it published or displayed. Ordinary and reasonable users of the Google search engine would have understood that the representations conveyed by the sponsored links were those of the advertisers, and would not have concluded that Google adopted or endorsed the representations. Accordingly, Google did not engage in conduct that was misleading or deceptive. “

The High Court started hearing the case last September. The arrival of a judgement today is one of the court's speedier turnarounds, a sign of the case's importance.

Google has issued the following statement about the judgement:

“We welcome the High Court’s unanimous decision that Google cannot be held responsible for the ads that advertisers create for Google's search engine."

The ACCC is also positive about the decision, with ACCC Chairman Rod Sims saying in a statement that “The ACCC took these proceedings to clarify the law relating to advertising practices in the internet age. Specifically, we considered that providers of online content should be accountable for misleading or deceptive conduct when they have significant control over what is delivered.”

Sims goes on to point out the court did find the ads misleading.

“The High Court’s decision focused only on Google’s conduct. In the facts and circumstances of this case the High Court has determined that Google did not itself engage in misleading or deceptive conduct,” Sims said.

Early analysis of the judgement from the Australian Copyright Council suggests it "highlights the need for an alternative response to intermediary liability issues." The Council's analysis mentions the case of Australian ISP iiNet, which was challenged in court by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft after doing little in response to notifications its users were infringing copyright. iiNet was held by the High Court not have a responsibility to respond to such notices or to monitor its users activities. Big Content responded with calls for amended legislation to shift some responsibility onto intermediaries like ISPs.

The Copyright Council's initial analysis suggests this new case raises similar issues. As we noted yesterday, an election is due in Australia in just a few months and with a full legislative program already tabled, this may be a reform that cannot be dealt with during the life of the current Parliament. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.