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Google loses Australian defamation lawsuit

Google has lost a lawsuit in Australia where it was accused of defaming a man by linking his name with gangland crime in search results.

Google has lost a lawsuit in Australia where it was accused of defaming a man by linking his name with gangland crime in search results.

62-year-old Milorad (or Michael) Trkulja, who moved to Australia from Yuogslavia in the 1970s and hosted a TV show in the 1990s, sued Google after it refused to remove search results that Trkulja claimed were damaging his repution.
In 2004 he was shot in the back at a restaurant by a man wearing a balaclava, with the crime never resolved, but police did not believe it was linked to the criminal underworld.
Despite this, Trkulja's name started to appear in Google searches linked with alleged murderers and drug traffickers, as well as with the words “Melbourne Crime,” which he claimed might give people the wrong impression that he was a criminal.
With such an uncommon name in Australia, Trkulja found that when he searched for his name the first result that came up contained the words: “Melbourne Crime – Underworld – Ganglands,” adding: “Former music promoter Michael Trkulja was shot in the back by a hitman wearing a balaclava while dining at a St Albans restaurant in June 2004.”
He claims that this suggestion that he was involved in crime, resulting in a hitman being hired against him, has damaged his reputation, resulting in people publicly avoiding him and even refusing to sit at the same table as him at a wedding.
Trkulja's lawyers asked Google to change the search results in 2009, but Google refused, claiming that its search results were automated and was therefore a case of “innocent dissemination,” an argument that the jury said was reasonable only up until Google was contacted by Trkulja.
Google has the option to appeal, but Yahoo also previously lost a case taken by Trkulja, making it diffult to see how the search giant might overturn the verdict. It will need to remove the offending search results and the amount of damages to be paid to Trkulja will be set over the next two weeks.
The case, and similar cases taken against Google, show how potentially damaging search results can be, even if there is no malicious intent behind how certain keywords and names are linked together. As Google loses more cases like this, it is likely it will be forced to change its approach and remove allegedly defaming material as soon as it receives a complaint.
Source: BBC

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