Google bushwhacked with over £100K defamation damages in Australian lawsuit

by James Laird
, 12 Nov 2012News
Google bushwhacked with over £100K defamation damages in Australian lawsuit

If Google was hoping to enjoy a celebratory atmosphere following the recent release of new additions to its popular Nexus product line, its ambitions were dramatically thwarted by the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

And today, the Internet search giant took another potentially deflating hit, after an Australian court awarded damages to a man suing the company for defamation, having provisionally ruled in his favour at the end of October.

A six-person Australian Supreme Court jury, led by justice David Beach, based its decision to award Milorad "Michael" Trkulja A$200,000 (£131,000) on the fact that Google failed to remove defamatory images linking the Melbourne resident and former music promoter to an infamous gangland figure, Tony Mokbel.

"My life is my reputation. If a person loses his reputation, he has nothing," Mr Trkulja said, speaking to the Australian Financial Review.

The verdict sets an intriguing precedent about the liability of content aggregators in defamation lawsuits. Google based its defence around the fact it did not publish the offensive images itself, but merely indexed links to a website that had made the unflattering connection between the two men.

But the jury noted that while Mr Trkulja had failed to fill in an offensive material form correctly, Google would have been amply aware of his complaint as he had emailed them directly, and that its lack of effort to resolve the issue made it complicit in defamation.

Earlier in the year, Mr Trkulja received a similar sum - $A225,000 – from another search engine, Yahoo.

Google is facing a similar lawsuit in Germany, where Bettina Wulff, the wife of the former German president Christian Wulff, is suing the company due to its predictive search function suggesting terms like "prostitute" and "red light district" be added to queries involving her name.

Image credit: Australian Financial Review

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