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Google Found Guilty of Libel For Search Results In Australia 223

Meshach writes "Google has been found guilty for refusing to take down a libelous search result in an Australian court (ruling). Music promoter Milorad Trkulja sued Google for refusing to take down links to website articles promoting libelous claims that Trkulja was connected to organized crime in Melbourne. Google told Trkulja to contact the sites on which the offensive materials were posted, as those webmasters controlled the content. But the Supreme Court of Victoria decided Google was responsible for removing the damaging links the moment Trkulja asked them to remove the content. As a result of the jury's decision in the case, Google will have to pay $200,000 in damages to Trkulja."
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Google Found Guilty of Libel For Search Results In Australia

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  • by ilikenwf ( 1139495 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:13PM (#42110713)
    Well, in terms of speech anyway. I don't think this would fly in the US unless some other corporate behemoth was the victim of the libel.
  • Chilling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:16PM (#42110759)

    So, if you file a claim with Google -- probably not even under oath -- stating that certain content is libel, Google would then have to take down their links to the content, lest the Australian courts find that content to be libel and hold Google liable.

    Which means that if you have access to the Australian courts, you can effectively cause Google to take down any website* without a trial, at little risk to yourself.

    Good to know.

    * Note: Anonymous Coward is not liable for damages incurred in the event that you attempt to take down a website owned by people with more money than you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:19PM (#42110787)

    Clearly this isn't a case of Google doing anything wrong. It's a case of a judge or jury not understanding how the internet works.

    Google doesn't own the content. Unless the individual wants to sue every search provider on the planet to get the results removed, he needs to go after the publisher/owner of the content, and not the search engine.

    There are days that I hope the evil corporations are all destroyed in a revolution. There are other days that I think we are getting exactly what we deserve. Especially when 'educated' folks make decisions like this.

  • by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:22PM (#42110809) Homepage Journal

    Google probably has the ability to deal with the problem, if it spent money to write some custom code or pattern matching rule. But it sounds like the judges don't understand the Internet or imagine Google could conceivably do the same thing times the number of people in the world who imagine something is libelous at some time in their lives. I don't get what was wrong with what Google told him to do. Is there no higher court in Australia? Or does Google maybe want to wait a while for the society to change in its favor before testing it.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:39PM (#42110983) Homepage

    Google isn't the perpetrator.

    They are just making it easier to find the perpetrator.

    THAT is who you should sue or prosecute.

  • Re:Rediculous. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:39PM (#42110987)

    > How can Google be responsible for content that it's just indexing and not generating themselves?

    Because they've shown that they will take links down.
    First it was "malware" and/or "phising" sites...
    Then Scientology.
    Then DMCA requests for linking to pirated whatever.

    Sorry, but Google didn't have a defense for why they shouldnt take the links down when they've proven that they are willing to take other links down. It basically came down to "we'll do it for others, but we dont want to do it for this guy."

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:42PM (#42111015) Homepage

    There's a very good reason. Google is an index, not a publisher.

    Little details matter both in computing and in law.

    You can't just ignore them.

    Perhaps the geezer on the bench would understand this if put in terms of an antique card catalog.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @07:50PM (#42111065)

    Google isn't the perpetrator.

    They are just making it easier to find the perpetrator.

    THAT is who you should sue or prosecute.

    And, does anyone else see the (huge) potential problem with the perception that "if Google doesn't list it, it does not exist"? They don't need to be even further entrenched.

  • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @08:45PM (#42111613)

    Google should not be responsible for censoring any content any more than the government should be responsible for criminals using roads to haul stolen goods away.

  • by aitikin ( 909209 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:14PM (#42111911)

    I take issue with the fact that you put the blame on Google* for not taking it down. The decision eludes to Google as a newspaper, and certainly if we were talking about Google's cache of the page then I'd be singing a different story. But even a newspaper (at least, from my understanding, IANAL although I have taken some law courses covering libel and slander) cannot be held responsible for putting a direct quote in. If I were to be interviewed and say, "Donald Trump is a mafia boss," and a newspaper had that line in there, they're not committing libel, I am. If they use my statement as their basis for their story, than that's a different scenario, but by quoting one phrase, or one paragraph and a headline, there is no indication of malicious intent or guilt.

    *Google involved (from my cursory glance through the article and the actual decision) did not receive any court order, merely a letter from the plaintiff, or possibly an attorney thereof. I don't get to file charges against Rand McNally because someone bought a map, found my house, and stole my things, or is that a good idea too?

  • by scottbomb ( 1290580 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @09:40PM (#42112175) Journal

    ... it doesn't appear completely bad that Google should react to take down notices for images that are not even being shown by the original site anymore.

    So far, yours is the only comment that I think actually makes a good case in favor of the plaintiff. Google caches thumbnails of images that are no longer hosted on the original site. Their servers have a lot of such broken links. I wonder if they use spiders to occasionally go back and validate these links. Such a check could only help Google: 1) their search results become more accurate and 2) they free up space that was used to store thumbnails that no longer go anywhere.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.