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Google Loses Defamation Suit for Linking Australian Man’s Image to Gangster

Court room Google has been successfully sued for defamation in Australia by a man who found his image associated with gangsters in search results.

Michael Trkulja of Melbourne won a defamation lawsuit against Google after discovering that its search results were linking him to an underworld figure called Tony Mokbel, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Trkulja’s only involvement with the Australian underworld was that he got shot in the back while eating in a restaurant. Despite this, he found his name associated with criminals in web searches for three years.

The lawsuit raises the question of whether web search engines can be viewed as publishers, and the verdict could open the floodgates to similar cases in the country. Google was not seen as the publisher here, but was found liable for not removing the search results when asked to do so.

Trkulja asked Google to remove its content linking to his name three years ago, but it did not, so he had no alternative but to sue it for defamation. A jury found that he had incorrectly filled out the forms that requested Google take down the material, but found that Google still should have made some effort to removed the search results at issue.

“They have to take some responsibility for what passes through their search systems, for what they index,” said Trkulja’s barrister Christopher Dibb.

Google has not commented, but Trkulja said he was pleased with the result.

“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,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish to my worst enemy what I went through.”

Trkulja has already been awarded $225,000 in damages from Yahoo from a similar case. A ruling on Google damages is due next week. 

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