The US-based search engine, Google, has had a major legal win! It has been declared that Google is not legally responsible for defamatory news stories.
The win also means that Google is not legally responsible for material consumers view when they click on anything that isn’t sponsored – this is huge news!
Basically, the high court has declared that Google, at least, in this case, is not a publisher. But it sets a very telling precedent.
The Brisbane Times has reported that High Court went as far as to overturn the decision made by The Victorian Supreme Court that Google should pay $40,000 in damages to criminal lawyer George Defteros.
Why was Google paying Defteros damages? Because Google didn’t take down a hyperlink linked to a newspaper article that Deftero said was defamatory.
When Google was ordered to pay the $40,000, it made waves in the media industry. Sure, that isn’t much money to a giant like Google, but it made publishers anxious.
It was sending a very clear message that publishers could be very vulnerable. Even Facebook groups could be potentially liable for things members posted.
To put it in perspective. Even Facebook Buy Swap and Sell groups were rattled and cracking down on members’ posts.
Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and Justice Jacqueline Gleeson said in a joint statement that: “The provision of the Search Result, including the hyperlink, has no connection to the creation of the article; its creation was in no way approved or encouraged by the appellant [Google], and the appellant did not participate in it being placed on The Age’s website.
“Whilst it may be said that the use of a hyperlink may mean The Age gains a reader, that does not make the appellant something other than a reference provider.”