Google, YOU Are Responsible For Search’s Content

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Google has lost a court case that sets a valuable precedent: search engines ARE responsible for the content they publish.

When Michael Trkulja typed his name into Google’s image search, photos of gangland figure Tony Mokbel were published alongside his.

Trkulja has no criminal associations, but he was an innocent bystander of the 2004 Melbourne gangland wars when he was shot in the back. (The original season of Underbelly was a dramatization of the gangland war.)

He simply wanted the photos, which were published by defunct website Melbourne Crime, taken down. He asked Google to remove them in 2009, but they took no action.

So he took the leviathan search company to court. The Supreme Court ruled in Trkulja’s favour, setting a precedent that deems Google responsible for the content its search engine publishes.

“They have to take some responsibility for what passes through their search systems, for what they index,” said Trkulja’s barrister, Christopher Dibb, to the SMH.

He also suggested the ruling could have future implications for social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

 

Google argued the “innocent dissemination” defence, claiming it was unaware the content its engine linked to was defamatory. However, the jury recognised if this was the case, the images should have been taken down when Trkulja brought it to their attention in 2009.

“The implication for the future is that companies can’t carry material on the internet with impunity,” said defamation lawyer Simon Rigby, a partner at Holman Webb.

“What this means for the likes of Google and Yahoo is that when they get a takedown notice they have to respond to it or face the consequences.”

A ruling on damages is expected to be delivered by the Supreme Court’s Justice David beach on Monday.

 

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