SYDNEY – Google was ordered to pay Aus$200,000 (US$208,000) in damages to an Australian man Monday after a jury found the Internet giant defamed him by publishing material linking him to mobsters.
Milorad Trkulja, an entertainment promoter who is now 62, was shot in the back in 2004 in a crime that was never solved.
He accused Google of defaming him with material he said implied he was a major crime figure in Melbourne and had been the target of a professional hit.
Searches of his name brought up references to the city’s gangsters including crime boss Tony Mokbel and a now defunct site called “Melbourne Crime” chronicling gang-related incidents.
Google denied publication in the Supreme Court of Victoria, saying it had innocently disseminated material published by others, and also disputed that the material conveyed the defamatory implications claimed by Trkulja.
But a jury ruled in his favour, finding the Internet firm had been on notice and failed to act on the issue from October 2009, when Trkulja’s lawyers wrote to them demanding action over the “grossly defamatory” content.
Judge David Beach ordered Google to pay Trkulja Aus$200,000, likening their role in publication to a library or newsagent, which have “sometimes been held to be publishers for the purposes of defamation law” in Australia.
“Google Inc is like the newsagent that sells a newspaper containing a defamatory article,” Beach said in his judgement.