A US court has ruled that Google has the right to display its search results however it chooses, upholding the tech giant's claim that the way it ranks web pages is a matter of free speech.
The ruling came after a website called CoastNews accused Google of artificially demoting its website in search results, in order to eliminate CoastNews as a potential competitor.
CoastNews' website reportedly appears at the top of results created by Bing and Yahoo.
However, Google responded by filing an “anti-SLAPP” motion – a legal tactic used to quickly challenge lawsuits that seek to stifle free speech.
The motion was upheld, with San Francisco's Judge Ernest Goldsmith stating that the CoastNews' lawsuit against Google relates to "constitutionally protected activity".
The ruling underlines the stark difference in how US and European authorities approach the issue of search engine regulation.
In Europe, regulators are in the process of imposing a series of measures – such as forcing Google to display rivals' ads in prominent places – to address the company’s allegedly anti-competitive practices.
Rivals have complained that Google is abusing its three quarters share of the web search market to artificially promote its own specialist services, such as shopping comparison and restaurant reviews.
If the case had gone to court and Google had lost it would be liable for fines of up to a tenth of its $50bn global turnover. However, Google cut a deal with the European Commission in February.