Google has lost a defamation suit in Australia, which could have bigger ramifications for how it handles situations when people complain about search results.
A man from Melbourne sued the search giant after he tried to get Google to remove images of him alongside a well known criminal from the country. A Supreme Court Jury reportedly found that the man, Michael Trkujia, had indeed been defamed. He had contacted Google, but no action was taken. It appears to be that knowledge of the situation on Google’s part (along with its lack of action) that has led to the legal defeat.
The case could set a precedent which could affect sites beyond just Google.
“Websites that link to offensive material may no longer be able to hide behind the defence that they are not technically publishers,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald, which quotes Mr Trkulja’s barrister:
“They have to take some responsibility for what passes through their search systems, for what they index,” said Mr Trkulja’s barrister Christopher Dibb.
Mr Dibb said there is no reason why the same would not apply to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, if they were issued with a takedown notice.
According to the Telegraph, Trkulja was awarded $225,000 in damages.
Google has had a long and storied history when it comes to defamation issues.
Last December, Google was fined $65,000 in France for defaming search suggestions. In 2010, Executive Chairman (and at the time, CEO) Eric Schmidt himself was convicted of defamation in that country, due to search suggestions.
In 2008, Google was ordered in India to identify an anonymous blogger in a defamation suit filed by a construction company.
Last month, a judge in Brazil ordered the arrest of Google’s President of Operations in the country, Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, when Google did not remove YouTube videos that contained remarks that were deemed “disparaging” about a mayoral candidate in the city of Campo Grande.
Google has not responded to our request for comment.