Google to pay out $255,000 in defamation damages

Posted by Emma Woollacott

An Australian man has won a defamation case against Google because its search results associated him with a criminal.

Searches on Melbourne man Michael Trkulja threw up images and articles associating him with gangster Tony Mokbel.

The images were posted after Trkulja - Trkulja a show business manager and an elder at a Serbian Orthodox Church - was shot by an unknown gunman while eating at a restaurant.

The search results, found the jury, would imply to an ordinary internet user that Trkulja was involved in crime.

Google's faced similar charges before, in Japan, Spain and Italy. One of the most entertaining cases took place in the UK, where the company was sued by former Formula One motor racing president Max Mosley. He argued that, while he had taken part in orgies, they weren't Nazi-themed as some articles on Google suggested.

On this latest occasion, Google attempted to use the argument it's successfully employed before: that it wasn't the publisher of the material, merely a facilitator.

It told the Sydney Morning Herald: "Google’s search results are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the web. The sites in Google’s search results are controlled by those sites’ webmasters, not by Google."

But the court decided that Google was still liable as it hadn't taken down the images when asked. It's now done so, and been ordered to pay Trkulja  $200,000 (US$255,000) in damages; Trkulja's already won a similar amount from Yahoo for the same offence.