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Google Sued for Defamation – and Loses

Google has successfully been sued by an Australian man after a six-person supreme court jury found the search engine Goliath guilty of defamation charges.

Michael Trkulja, of Melbourne, decided to take legal action against Google when requests to remove content from Google’s image search was ignored.

Mr Trkulja first became upset with the search engine in 2009. Whenever his name was typed into Google’s image search, photos would appear of Mr Trkulja alongside a well known gangland figure – Tony Mokbel. The Google search results also linked to a now defunct Melbourne Crime website where photos labelled with his name could be found.

Google’s lawyers used the “innocent dissemination” defence, arguing that it was not the publisher of the material and only indexing the links to the website and images. Google claimed it was merely providing links to the content without realising it was defamatory.

The jury rejected Google’s defence because Mr Trkulja had contacted the search engine in 2009 asking for the images to be taken down. However, since Mr Trkulja had incorrectly filled out the form for reporting offensive material by not including the URL of the images, the jury did not hold the search engine liable for the search results themselves.

Mr Trkulja, who also won a similar case against rival search engine Yahoo! earlier this year, is said to be “over the moon” with the decision. In an interview with an Australian newspaper, he had this to say:

I feel great, I feel vindicated. It was a David and Goliath battle, a single man standing against a giant using all money and power available to them to squash an innocent person.

The images are no longer indexed by Google’s search engine, but being wrongly associated with a gangland figure has caused much distress to Mr Trkulja:

I wouldn’t wish to my worst enemy what I went through

The judge is expected to make a ruling on damages next Monday but may be similar to the $225,000 he was awarded from wining the Yahoo! case.

Google refused to make any comment on the case.