Google by Carlos Luna (CC BY 2.0)

Google by Carlos Luna (CC BY 2.0)


B.C. Court of Appeal Upholds Global Deletion Order Against Google

The B.C. Court of Appeal has released its decision in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack, a closely watched case involving a court order requiring Google to remove websites from its global index. As I noted in a post on the lower court decision, rather than ordering the company to remove certain links from the search results available through, the order intentionally targets the entire database, requiring the company to ensure that no one, anywhere in the world, can see the search results. That post notes:

The implications are enormous since if a Canadian court has the power to limit access to information for the globe, presumably other courts would as well. While the court does not grapple with this possibility, what happens if a Russian court orders Google to remove gay and lesbian sites from its database? Or if Iran orders it remove Israeli sites from the database? The possibilities are endless since local rules of freedom of expression often differ from country to country.

The B.C. Court of Appeal decision addresses two key jurisdiction questions: first, whether the court can assert jurisdiction over Google; and second, whether the court order can extend beyond Canada.

The first question is relatively easy. While Google argued that it does not have servers or offices in B.C., the court concluded that it still has a real and substantial connection to the province:

While Google does not have servers or offices in the Province and does not have resident staff here, I agree with the chambers judge’s conclusion that key parts of Google’s business are carried on here. The judge concentrated on the advertising aspects of Google’s business in making her findings. In my view, it can also be said that the gathering of information through proprietary web crawler software (“Googlebot”) takes place in British Columbia. This active process of obtaining data that resides in the Province or is the property of individuals in British Columbia is a key part of Google’s business.

The reference to Google collecting information in the province is an aggressive jurisdictional approach. Given that search engines (and many other sites) collect data from around the world, the B.C. Court of Appeal analysis would open the door to courts asserting jurisdiction over many websites and online services with limited connections to the jurisdiction. Indeed, this would seemingly be true even if the site had no business in the jurisdiction.

The second jurisdictional question spurred interventions from groups like EFF and CCLA, who were concerned with the free speech implications of a court order applied to the Internet far beyond B.C. On this issue, the court was not troubled by an order that applies beyond provincial borders, stating:

British Columbia courts are called upon to adjudicate disputes involving foreign residents on a daily basis, and the fact that their decisions may affect the activities of those people outside the borders of British Columbia is not determinative of whether an order may be granted.

Moreover, it noted that courts in other countries that have issued orders with international effects. Decisions cited include the infamous Yahoo France case and the recent right to be forgotten decision from EU. While those decisions might have been used to signify the need for caution, the court concluded that “international courts do not see these sorts of orders as being unnecessarily intrusive or contrary to the interests of comity.”

In light of the appellate decision, my conclusion from the earlier ruling remains unchanged:

While there is much to be said for asserting jurisdiction over Google – if it does business in the jurisdiction, the law should apply – attempts to extend blocking orders to a global audience has very troubling implications that could lead to a run on court orders that target the company’s global search results.

Google is reported to be reviewing the judgement with Internet law watchers waiting to see if it seeks leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.


  1. Ivan Gluscic says:

    I may not be much of a law person, but this seems to me like the BC court has gone waaay beyond its bailiwick, as has France in a similar ruling. I hope Google pursues an appeal with the Supreme Court. Would someone go to court to have publishers or libraries remove history books with unflattering descriptions? It just seems ludicrous.

    • Steve Poporinski says:

      Why not Ivan they do so now.
      If we allow 1 entity, especially a corporation to dictate our lives, library will no longer exist as they will be run from gogl completely.
      The measures we have in place now have served humankind for centuries, seems like the strong arm tactics of modern day corporations are now trying to re-invent the wheel for their own financial profits.
      Most people should remember when earlier gogl tried to have all paper books destroyed in favor of their online libraries.
      Massive fail gogl!

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  4. It’s impossible to get Google to delete an erroneous item from a search archive let alone a scurrilous or malicious one that some third party managed to put on-line. (Well, except in the EU where its high court ruled that everyone has a right to be forgotten.) As a practical matter, how does the BC court think it can compel Google to erase something all over the world?

  5. Google MUST take this to the Supreme Court of Canada. This ruling sets an insane precedent. Any country where Google does business could turn around and have global search results censored because of their local laws. How about we all start living under Saudia Arabia’s or China’s draconian censorship?

    • I am no lawyer, but shouldn’t ruling such as these in Canada (or any other country) apply to Canadian’s (or any other country’s) information no matter where that information is stored globally?

      Thus, for example, Russia or Iran could not prevent the rest of the world from viewing links associated with gay rights or anti-Russian/Iranian information, if that information was not stored in, or was not about, Russia or Iran. Thus the only thing Russian (or Iran) could do was censor Google links about their people, globally. This seems fair to me, given what it allows for in Democratic countries (i.e. right to be forgotten). If Russian or Iranian people don’t like that, then they should push to become democratic.

      So it sounds like the worry about global censorship of the internet from non-democratic countries (i.e. Russia, China, Iran, etc… ) seems far fetched, at least to me.

      Though perhaps I don’t fully understand the BC court’s ruling.

      • Steve Poporinski says:

        But we no longer live in a democracy anywhere in the developed 1st world, for if we did, we should be able to vote on everything.

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  10. Why isn’t there a Canadian federalism / constitutional issue with this court’s jurisdiction? If anything, seems it should have a been a CRTC mandate reviewable in the Federal Courts.

  11. Could a California court overturn this? Does the location of servers have any bearing? Do the other popular search engines like Bing and Duckduckgo have to comply as well? Is it illegal for me to personally circumvent this ruling?

    I think that in matters involving the internet the courts are incompetent (in the legal sense) and it is best to ignore them .

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