It appears that search engine optimization (SEO) – or lack of it from news providers – has led to a lawsuit against Google which seems unlikely to gain traction in the courts but which may nonetheless alter the search ranking of an alleged defamatory blog post at the heart of the complaint.
Cherie Davis, the mother of U.S. speed skater Shani Davis, is suing Google over a blog post which is hosted on the company’s Blogger service. In the post, written on February 22, 2006, the blogger – identified as Sean Healy, who died in 2007 – alleged that Davis had called members of the U.S. Speedskating Federation "KKK," "white supremacist" and "neo-Nazi genetic mutation."
It appears that part of the issue is that a Google search for "Cherie Davis" gives the blog post in question as the first result with more traditional media outlets that reported on the Davis’ statements in 2002 not showing up.
Lawyer Paul Alan Levy told MediaPost that there are a number of problems for Davis in this lawsuit, including the fact that a libel lawsuit must be filed within one year of publication. In this case more than three years have passed.
However, the lawsuit may lead to another consequence for Davis – removing the blog post from the top search result. If the story is able to gain traction from media outlets, it’s likely that because of organic search engine optimization (SEO), articles about the lawsuit will eventually top the search results page for the name "Cherie Davis."