Google has lost a defamation lawsuit initially filed by Milorad Trkulja because search results such as “Melbourne Crime” was showing an image of Mr. Trkulja which the Jury in the Supreme Court in the Australian state of Victoria found Google guilty of defamation because it connected Mr. Trkulja to search results such as “Melbourne Crime” and other terms which can create the perception that Milorad was part of some form of crime in Melbourne and the portrayal that a rival had hired a hitman to murder him.
The court in Australia did side with Google favourably regarding Google’s defence that the search results were based on automated software and that, as a result, Google defended itself on “innocent dissemination”. The Jury found this a reasonable argument only up to the point until Google received a complaint, at which point the court said the content should have been removed at the point of having receipt of the complaint from Mr. Trkulja.
Because the Jury has found Google guilty, within the next few weeks, the Judge overseeing the court case will determine the damages that Google will need to pay. Retrospectively, Mr. Trkulja had won a similar case against Yahoo! which resulted in the court awarding Milorad with damages around $250,000 USD (approximately £154,000).
Mr. Milorad Trkulja had said that the case against Google is “not about the money, it’s about protecting my family, my children and my reputation.”
Even though Google has an automated search indexing system and preferably does not want to remove any content even that may be considered controversial, defamatory or offensive, it appears the company are going to need to be more flexible to avoid ending up having to pay a lot of money for similar cases like this.