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Google fined in Australia defamation case

Court orders $208,000 fine to be paid to Milorad Trkulja whose name was linked to gangsters after an unsolved case.
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2012 06:44
Searches of Trkulja's name brought up references to gangsters in Melbourne [AFP]

Internet giant Google have been ordered to pay $208,000 in damages to an Australian man after a jury found the
Google 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 $208,000, likening their role in publication to a library or news agent, which have "sometimes been held to be publishers for the purposes of defamation law" in Australia.

"Google Inc is like the news agent that sells a newspaper containing a defamatory article," Beach said in his judgment.

"While there might be no specific intention to publish defamatory material, there is a relevant intention by the news agent to publish the newspaper for the purposes of the law of defamation."

Beach said the jury was "entitled to conclude that Google Inc intended to publish the material that its automated systems produced, because that was what they were designed to do upon a search request".

Trkulja, who argued that his reputation was central to his work and had been seriously damaged by the defamatory material, had already won $234,000 from Yahoo in an earlier case on the same matter.

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