Friday, July 12, 2013

Anti-SLAPP "Public Interest" -- Google is NOT the answer?

The Fifth District today issued two unpubs affirming the denial of anti-SLAPP motions in defamation cases on the prong 1 "issue of public interest." (Brough-Stevenson and Gibson.) "Public interest" in anti-SLAPP jurisprudence is one of those amorphous areas that allow a fair amount of judicial discretion -- "Judges know it when they see it." Last year in one opinion (Hecimovich), the court used Google as a way of gauging public interest by starting the opinion like this:
A recent Google search for "youth sports" showed 379,000,000 results. "Safety in youth sports," 66,800,000. "Problem parents in youth sports," 21,600,000. And "problem coaches in youth sports," 108,000,000. Subjects of tremendous interest.
This use of Google has troubled some observers -- is this an improper form of the courts gathering evidence? An interesting debate. So you gotta love footnote 3 in Gibson:
[Defendant] also contends that Gibson is a public figure because "a Google search [on his name] yields about 10,100,000 results in 0.45 seconds .…" This argument might be persuasive to someone who has never performed a search on the Internet. Anyone who has done so knows that virtually any search produces a similarly enormous number of results in a fraction of a second.
A split of authority re Google?