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‘Publisher’ Google Ordered To Pay $40K In Defamation Case

MELBOURNE: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Victoria has found that Google is a publisher and has been consequently ordered to pay $40,000 in damages to Melbourne lawyer George Defteros , who had sued the Internet company for defamation. 

Google had argued that the automation of its search engines meant it was not a publisher and not liable, but Justice Melinda Richards ruled against that.

The case centred on articles and images published by The Age newspaper in 2004, after Defteros was charged with conspiracy over the murder of Carl Williams and other underworld figures, charges that were later dropped. 

Defteros argued that in 2016 and 2017, searches on Google continued to turn up articles and hyperlinks to Web material that defamed him, including some on online encyclopedia Wikipedia. 

During the trial Google’s lawyers argued that it was not the publisher of the material and it had not defamed Defteros.

Justice Richards rejected this in her ruling.  “The Google search engine … is not a passive tool,” she said in her judgement.

“It is designed by humans who work for Google to operate in the way it does, and in such a way that identified objectionable content can be removed, by human intervention.

“I find that Google becomes a publisher of the search results that its search engine returns to a user who enters a search query.”

The ruling will have ramifications around the world.

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