Google is awaiting a judge’s decision on damages before it decides what to do after losing a defamation case over its search results in Australia.
A jury in the supreme court of the Australian state Victoria, ruled Tuesday that Google is liable for defamation because its search results connected the plaintiff, 62-year-old Milorad Trkulja, to phrases such as “Melbourne crime” and showed his photo near images of suspected members of Melbourne’s organized crime scene.
It’s a complicated and strange case that the BBC details well. In short, my summary would go like this:
- the plaintiff was shot at a restaurant in 2004
- the crime remains unsolved today, but was originally thought to be linked to organized crime (thus the name “Gangland” is being used to describe the case)
- due to media coverage of the incident, including on a website named “Melbourne Crime,” the plaintiff’s name and image were showing up in Google search results and image search results in a way that appeared to connect him to organized crime
- the plaintiff used Google’s form to have content from other websites removed from its search index, but failed to provide the URL of the content that he was objecting to
Because of that last point, the Victorian jury ruled Google not liable for its web search results. But it did find Google guilty of defamation because of its image search results, which remained unchanged after the plaintiff’s request. The jury found that Google should have removed those search results when it received Trkulja’s complaint.
The judge is expected to rule on damages in the next couple weeks. A Google spokesperson tells us the company will wait for that decision before deciding its next steps. Google could appeal the decision.
Trkulja had previously won a similar case against Yahoo, which was ordered to pay about $250,000 (USD) in damages.