After discussing how search engines operate in Part I below, and setting forth a normative basis for regulation of their results in Part II, this piece proposes (in Part III) some minor, non-intrusive legal remedies for those who claim that they are harmed by search engine results. Such harms include unwanted high-ranking results relating to them, or exclusion from a page they claim it is their “due” to appear on. In the first case (deemed “inclusion harm”), I propose a right not to suppress the results, but merely to add an asterisk to the hyperlink directing web users to them, which would lead to the complainant's own comment on the objectionable result. In the latter case (deemed “exclusion harm”), complainants should have some right to a limited explanation of why they did not appear in highly ranked results. Both these rights are based on the Fair Credit Reporting Act's guarantee to consumers that they both get to correct and comment on negative information in their credit reports, and that they receive some account of why their credit reports might have led to a denial of credit.


Symposium: Cyberpersons, Propertization, and Contract in the Information Culture