In what could be a groundbreaking case that opens the floodgates for defamation lawsuits against Google, a Melbourne man has been awarded $AU200,000 ($US208,000, £131,000) in damages after his photo was shown in Google image results when searching for Australian gangland figure Tony Mokbel.
A six-person Supreme Court jury last month found that Milorad Trkulja had been defamed against by the search giant after he contacted them in 2009 asking for the images to be removed.
While Google argued that because it didn't publish the images itself, merely indexing links to a website that had made the connection to Mokbel and Trkulja, the jury found the company's lack of effort to remove the images once contacted constituted defamation.
The ruling followed a similar result earlier this year, when Trkulja was awarded $AU225,000 from Yahoo! for the same issue.
Defaming, but not guilty
While the jury found Google defamed Trkulja, it did confess that the company wasn't guilty for publishing the images after it was revealed that Trkulja failed to fill in the offensive material form correctly.
The offending website that linked the images of Trkulja and Mokbel has since been taken down, and is therefore no longer indexed by Google.
But the search company's lack of effort to remove the images after being contacted by Trkulja's lawyers back in 2009 was enough for the jury to award om Trkulja's favour.
The verdict will set an interesting precedent, and could potentially alter the way Google handles complaints about search results in the future.
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