A landmark ruling in Australia's High Court has found that Google is not responsible for messages or content provided by paid advertisers served by the search engine. The finding ends a six-year legal fight between Google and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which accused Google of engaging in misleading and deceptive behavior regarding the content of paid advertisements.
In 2006 and 2007, a search for "Honda Australia" would display a paid advertisement for a Honda competitor, CarSales. The ACCC said the ads were deceptive, as they implied CarSales was directly related to and affiliated with Honda Motors. In a unanimous ruling, five Australian high court judges ruled in Google's favor, overturning a previous ruling from the Federal Court. The earlier order mandated Google set up a compliance program to vet content in paid advertisements hosted by the search engine.
"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," the court said. Furthermore, the court pointed out that the advertisement was labeled as such, and could be easily identified as not part of the normal search results.