Landmark defamation case against Google starts in Victoria as man sues over gangland claims

A Melbourne man whose photo was published alongside that of gangland figures including Tony Mokbel in a story about an unresolved restaurant shooting is suing search giant Google in what is seen as a landmark case.

Milorad “Michael” Trkulja’s action against Google started yesterday in the Victorian Supreme Court.

He claims that putting his name into Google brings up stories about the unresolved shooting which occurred in 2004, and this had led to the damage of his reputation and being ostracised from the community.

While there have been similar attempts around the world to sue Google over allegedly defamatory remarks, most have failed.

However, Trkulja at least has some history on his side – in February, the Victorian Supreme Court ordered Google’s rival Yahoo! to pay him damages of $225,000 over a similar defamation case.

That case hinged largely on the fact that Trkulja’s lawyers had sent Yahoo! a letter asking for the content in question to be blocked but the search giant had refused.

At the time, Middletons partner David Hope told SmartCompany that it was one of few cases where a search engine had admitted that it published material from another website over which it has no control.

“What is significant is that Yahoo!7 was found liable by the judge in respect of a website where its search engine simply produced a result.”

“What the judge has taken into account is the fact that the plaintiff’s lawyers had written long ago to Yahoo! asking that they block that result from coming up and they refused.

“Over time the search engines seem to have been more willing to block websites if they receive letters asking for these websites to be blocked for material that could be seriously defamatory.

“I think this case highlights that they do need to be aware of blocking defamatory websites when they are put on notice of their existence.”

The case against Google continues.

Read SmartCompany blogger Paul Wallbank’s article on the perils of social media posting for companies.



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