Australia’s top court rules Google isn’t a publisher

Google has prevailed in its longstanding battle over potentially defamatory web links. The Australian High Court has ruled that Google was not the publisher of a link to a 2004 story Age this supposedly troubled prosecutor George Defteros, who represented people involved in the Melbourne gangland killings and was briefly indicted himself. As The guard Five out of seven judges reportedly found that the search results link was “mere convenience” to the story — Google had no role in writing or distributing the content.

The High Court also rejected Defteros’ claim that search results encouraged users to visit a story. Someone who found that link was already searching for relevant content, the judges said. Some of the judges said the case might have been different if it had involved a sponsored link, but that Google’s appeal does not require a response on the issue.

Defteros sued Google in 2016, accusing the company of defaming him. Google removed the link in December of that year and lost its first lawsuit, but attempted to overturn the judgment arguing that it could have been held liable for the content of any linked page – fearing it would have to “take action”. as a ‘censor’ of the internet at large. The company was unsuccessful on that first appeal, and in 2020 a Victorian Supreme Court ordered Defteros to be awarded $40,000 in damages. Google petitioned the High Court in January Intervention.

The decision could have far-reaching implications for Internet companies operating in Australia. They may not have to worry about searches or other auto-generated links getting them into legal trouble. A complainant would have to show that a deliberate attempt was made to promote an unflattering piece.

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