Australian court orders Google to pay $200,000 damages for defamatory search results

Posted On November 21, 2012
In Defamation in Cyberspace / Reply

The Supreme Court of Victoria has ordered Google to pay damages of $200,000 for publishing search engine results found by a jury to be defamatory.

In Milorad Trkulja v Google Inc, a jury found that certain images and web pages generated by the Google search engine in response to a query using the plaintiff’s name imputed that “the plaintiff was so involved with crime in Melbourne that his rivals had hired a hit man to murder him”.

Google subsequently argued that the jury decision should be overturned because there was no evidence on which a reasonable jury could find for the plaintiff. In particular, Google argued it could not be said to be the “publisher” of the images and pages, and in any event that it was entitled to the defence of “innocent dissemination”.

The court rejected Google’s arguments. While acknowledging that search engines operate automatically, the court stated they “operate precisely as intended by those who own them”.

Thus, it was open to a reasonable jury to find that Google published the search engine results and did so with knowledge of their contents.

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