Posted December 2, 2008 1:54 pm by with 8 comments

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By Taylor Pratt

According to a report from MediaPost, a California court has dismissed a lawsuit against Google and Yahoo for displaying gambling ads in their search results. The California Superior Court Judge, Richard Kramer, has granted immunity from liability based on the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA) to search engines.

Section 230 of the CDA says that operators of Internet services (in this case, search engines) are not to be held liable for words of third parties who use their services (i.e. AdWords). What isn’t immediately clear (to me, anyway) is whether or not the sites that advertise on Google and Yahoo can face legal action (assuming they were based in the U.S.).

According to Judge Kramer, because Google and Yahoo had already stopped accepting gambling ads in the U.S., there was no reason to issue an injunction. The lawsuit had dated back to 2004 when Google and Yahoo were sued by two California residents who had reportedly lost $100,000 gambling online. I’m glad to see that even after people turn 16 they still refuse to take responsibility for themselves.

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo paid $31.5 million last year to settle with the Justice Department for their promotion of gambling sites within the U.S. The CDA did not protect them in that case because the law contains an exception for some federal criminal cases (translation—you aren’t protected if it is the government who benefits).

Taylor Pratt is a Search Marketing Specialist for nFusion, a results focused marketing agency.

  • Good. I personally don’t think Google and Yahoo! should have had to pay for this in the first place. One thing I’m not 100% clear on, however, is whether these listings were PPC or organic. One would think that the PPC might be able to slide in there for a short time, but the organic results likely would not have produced such results. Either way, people who have to click the mouse, give their info online, and then lose $ should not be able to point blame at the SE’s for their bad decision.

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  • Hi Taylor.Looking bright in this article.i my self believe in that marketing is a some special skill.Hope all the people will understand it with in upcoming time.thanks for the information..

  • Gambling is one of the worst addictions one can have, and having personally worked in casinos I can tell you that it can get pretty ugly, with people losing everything they’ve worked their entire life for a regular occurrence. Hence I personally would love to see gambling advertising of any sorts banned, just like cigarette and booze advertising (in some countries). Holding the search engines accountable is a sure-fire (if not necessarily fair) way to ensure that nothing slips through.

  • I think it is pretty ridiculous that the government steps into things like this too much. I understand things like gambling ads are not necessarily the best to be showing to people, but let them decide that. If people don’t agree with the ads, they won’t click on them and therefore stop the casino companies from paying for them.

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  • All is well that ends well then! Poor casino promoters.

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  • Absolute bonkers!Lets see how this goes in future!!

  • Few week ago i see an online gambling ads on google but not with english language.. i think google must hire phillipines staff to watch if there is someone want to breaking the adwords rules.

  • Jacques – You are moralizing the issue. A case can be made against any “vice” advertising, but I don’t want Google or Yahoo! being the judge. Should restaurants selling fatty food be banned? What about online beer mug shops? Skydiving?

    I do not want search engines being held liable, and therefore responsible for, any more content than they have too.