Mississippi attorney general’s “conspiracy to censor the internet” back on as appeals court rules against Google

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Google’s effort to block what it says is the Mississippi Attorney General’s corrupt effort to censor the internet has itself been blocked by a federal appeals court. The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals just vacated a preliminary injunction issued last year against Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood’s sweeping investigation of the company.

In late 2014, Google sued Hood in federal court in response to a “punitive and burdensome subpoena” surrounding the sufficiency of Google’s efforts to police copyright infringement and other “illegal activity” on the internet. Hood had issued the subpoena in relation to disputed content that Hood and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) deemed illegal or otherwise in violation of copyright law.

According to court documents, Hood also sought a “24-hour link” through which state attorneys general could ask for specific URLs to be removed from Google’s index “within hours.” Google refused to cooperate with Hood’s investigation, resulting in the subpoena at issue.

The case is a difficult one because Google’s request for an injunction struck at the heart of the investigative powers of state attorneys general. However, in the Hood investigation, news organizations discovered what amounted to collusion or a conspiracy with the MPAA to use the office of the Mississippi Attorney General to enforce SOPA-like control over internet content, though that legislation was defeated.

Google’s General Counsel, Kent Walker, asserted at the time that Hood’s investigation of Google was actually being directed by a private law firm representing the MPAA, Jenner & Block. This is part of a larger and probably illegal pattern by private interests to attempt to use attorneys general to pursue their financial objectives, which was documented by The New York Times.

In March 2015, a federal judge granted Google’s request for an injunction blocking the Hood subpoena. Hood appealed, and the Fifth Circuit ruled against Google, saying the injunction shouldn’t have been granted. The ruling doesn’t express a direct opinion about the underlying legitimacy of the Hood inquiry or whether it was an abuse of the investigative powers of the attorney general’s office.

The case is now remanded to the lower court. Google will get another opportunity to challenge Hood’s investigation in that proceeding. However, it could also appeal the Fifth Circuit’s decision to the US Supreme court.

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