Google has been found liable for damages in a defamation case in Australia, where its search results have been ruled to be damaging to a man’s reputation.
Completing a search for Milorad Trkulja returned results erroneously linking him with organised crime. When requesting that the US search engine remove the results, Google refused.
The case has been a complicated one for the court, concerning an incident back in 2004.
Trkulja, a Yugoslav-immigrant, was shot in the back whilst in a restaurant in Melbourne, with the case still remaining unsolved. Though denied in later reports, early media rumours linked the shooting to the city’s underworld.
This conjuncture resulted in spurious content being written.
Interrogated by the search engine’s SEO software, results were compiled with links to Trkulja and crime. Having seen people treat him differently because of this, the 62-year-old filed a complaint for the results to be removed from its index.
Google refused to remove the results as it believed that as it was not the publisher, it was not responsible for the content. It claimed “innocent dissemination”. This argument was accepted, but only up to the point that Trkulja filed the complaint.
The Supreme Court found Google liable for defamation on this basis
However, the ruling only covers the picture results, not the web results. This is largely due to a technicality though, with Trkulja incorrectly filling out the complaint form.
The former TV host failed to list the individual URLs he was requesting be removed.
The level of damages is due to be set in two weeks, though it is still unclear whether Google will appeal the decision.