Google expresses concern over Australian defamation ruling

Tech giant Google have expressed concerns that they may be forced to censor search results viewed by customers if a defamation claim filed in Australia is not overturned.

The initial claim was filed by Melbourne based solicitor George Defteros who made the claim against Google arguing that Google’s publication of search results referring to a 2004 article that details Defteros’s arrest for conspiracy to murder, charges that were later dropped, defamed him.

In a 2020 court ruling, the judge went against Google and ruled that the article did insinuate that Mr Defteros acted in a way that was not acceptable for a Lawyer and therefore the article with defamatory.

As Google had refused to remove the defamatory article, the legal action was therefore filed against them.

In an attempt to appeal the decision, Google  argued that it was not a publisher of the material because “a hyperlink is not, in and of itself, the communication of that to which it links”. Websites should only be liable if the hyperlink “actually repeats the defamatory imputation to which it links”, Google said.

Google have said that if this decision stands, and it has the potential to remain liable over hyperlinks included in its search results, it would be forced to censor all search results, which they state would have a devasting impact on the internet.

It will be interesting to see how this matter concludes and whether this ruling creates ripples across the world.

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