Filtertechnics has won a case about the legality of its webspam filter for Google results in Germany. The Court of Appeals in Hamm, concludes that the website in question was in fact constructed with thousands of Doorway Pages, a construction with the sole purpose to manipulate the search engine. Filtertechnics had appealed an earlier ruling, in which Filtertechnics was ordered to stop denoting the particular site as spammy.
The case shines some light on legal questions about search engine’s guidelines, which include anti spam policies. The legal battles over webspam, or spamdexing, are a focal point in the conflicts between search engines and information providers.
The Court of Appeals states: In the case of a verifiable suspicion of search engine manipulation, Filter software is allowed to denote the particular site as ‘Spam’.
Interestingly, the court states that it does not matter whether the particular site does not contain any relevant material for the Internet user. It is enough that there is manipulation involved. The lower court had given a lot of weight to the spamdexing definition in the German Wikipedia, that states that the spam site would not contain any such useful information. According to the Court of Appeals the wider Spam definition in the context of Filtersoftware is in fact appropriate and user friendly, while Internet users exactly want to find the websites that really earn their ranking in search engines.
The Court concludes that spamdexing filters, in view of the flood of unjustifiable search engine results, are also permissible from the point of view of user protection. The user and the public have a legitimate interest to use suitable technical means to filter spam, which one was not primarily looking for.