Google not liable in defamation case, Australian court overturns previous decision

Google Not Liable in Defamation Case, Australian Court Overturns Previous Ruling

Australia’s Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a decision that accused Google of defamation by supplying a link to a controversial newspaper article, again making headlines over how the country handles online defamation cases. was found to be involved.

A seven-judge panel of the High Court of Australia voted 5-2 to overturn an earlier finding that the Alphabet entity played a role in publishing the disputed article by acting as a “library” housing it. Having said that the website had no active role. ,

The decision brings new confusion to a question that has been brewing for years in Australia, where the liability for online defamation lies. A year-long review of the country’s defamation law has yet to make a final recommendation on whether big platforms like Google and meta platforms like Facebook should be held accountable.

The case stems from a 2004 article suggesting that a criminal defense attorney had exceeded professional boundaries and became a “confidant” of criminals, according to the published decision. The judgment said the lawyer, George Defteros, found a link to the story in a Google search of his name in 2016 and Google removed it after 150 people viewed it.

Defteros sued in a state court, finding that Google was a publisher and ordered it to pay 40,000 AUD (about Rs 22,13,400). Google appealed against the decision, culminating in Wednesday’s decision.

“The Underworld article was not written by an employee or agent of the appellant,” two of the panel’s judges wrote in Wednesday’s ruling, with the appellant being Google.

“It was written by a reporter who had no connection with the appellant, and was published by an independent newspaper over which the appellant had no control or influence.”

Google “does not own or control the Internet”, he wrote.

A Google spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Defteros said in a statement that the process was “long, drawn out, costly and extremely stressful,” but felt right because the court held that the article was defamatory, even though Google was not liable.

The decision comes after the High Court last year found a newspaper publisher liable for defamatory comments left at the bottom of an article posted on Facebook.

The difference between the 2021 Facebook case and Wednesday’s case was that media companies “invited and encouraged commentary” last year, while Google “provided no platform or place where it could be communicated, nor did it respond.” encouraged to write comments in . . . ”, the judges wrote.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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