Aussies Can Sue Google For Defamation, Court Rules

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Kyle Perisic Contributor
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An Australian court ruled on Wednesday that a man can sue Google for defamation in search results he claims associate him with the criminal underworld.

The Australian High Court ruled unanimously in favor of Milorad “Michael” Trkulja, who argued that when users search on Google for his name, it implied he was “somehow associated with the Melbourne criminal underworld,” the Associated Press reported. Google was ordered to pay for Trkulja’s legal costs.

“It would be open to a jury to conclude that an ordinary reasonable person using the Google search engine would infer that the persons pictured whose identities are unknown are persons, like the notorious criminals with whom they are pictured, in some fashion opprobriously connected with criminality and the Melbourne criminal underworld,” the judgment said, Perth Now reported.

Trkulja was shot in the back in Melbourne in 2004 and given Australia’s strict gun laws, it naturally garnered a lot of attention. (RELATED: Australians Can’t Use Amazon’s US Website Thanks To New Tax Hike, Leaving Room For eBay And Alibaba)

Google searches for “Melbourne criminal underworld photos” showed Trkulja’s picture alongside convicted criminals, Guy Reynolds, Trkulja’s lawyer, told the High Court in March.

It’s “irrational,” Google’s lawyers said, for someone to link those search results with Trkulja being a real criminal since the Google results showed movie posters and actors’ images, too.

However, while searching his name on Google, the search bar autocompletes to “is a former hit man,” “criminal” and “underworld.” But previous searches influence the autocomplete results, which is an automatic feature.

When a lower court ruled in favor of Trkulja in 2012, Google took it to the Court of Appeals in 2016, which ruled in favor of Google. After the most recent ruling in the High Court on Wednesday, Google said it would continue defending against the claim. The case is expected to the Victorian Supreme Court.

“We will continue to defend the claim,” Google said in a statement to the AP. “We decline to comment further on ongoing legal matters.”

Trkulja said he would also keep up his fight against Google.

“I will sue Google … and I will sue them till they stop. I want them to block my pictures,” he said. “I’m not a criminal, I’ve never been involved and I will make sure these people are not going to ruin my family — I have grandchildren.”

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