Australian Court: Google Must Pay Guy $200k Due To Image Search Turning Up Gangsters
from the pics-pics-pics dept
With Google still holding the search engine crown, they’re obviously going to be the target of a myriad of lawsuits. Defamation has played a role in the legal life of the search giant for some time now, even though the entire basis for technology behind the search results is in what the internet community at large does, rather than any active role by Google. That’s what makes this kind of thing so silly. We previously wrote about autocomplete defamation cases, for instance, in which autocompletes are generated based on common searches, but people still want to hold the search engine accountable. We also had the story about the minority owner of the Miami Heat who didn’t like the fact that a picture of him doing his best dog-with-peanut-butter-in-its-mouth impression showed up in search results. But, hey, at least he was suing over a picture that actually was him.
Not so for Milorad Trkulga, an elderly man from Melbourne, Australia, who has been awarded $200,000 from Google because the search engine’s image results also conjured up pictures of Tony Mokbel, an apparent “Australian gangland figure.”
The images were posted after Mr Trkulja was shot in the back by an unknown gunman while eating with his elderly mother at a St Albans restaurant in June 2004. When Mr Trkulja’s name was typed into Google’s image search, photos had appeared of him alongside gangland figure Tony Mokbel.
From what I can gather at the following related link, Trkulja was indeed shot while at a restaurant as part of some kind of infamous gangland wars that occured in 2004, hence the bridging link to a gangster. When news publications wrote up the story, they included images of both Trkulja and Mokbel, which likely caused their pictures to show up together in a search of the former’s name. Trukulja, for reasons that escape me, thought that this was defamation and took Google to court. Google argued that they weren’t publishing any of the material, only indexing search results. This, apparently, did not impress the jury.
However, the jury found Google’s defence of the images broke down because it did not take any steps to remove the images from its searches once Mr Trkulja’s lawyers contacted the company. The jury found the search engine was not liable for the search results themselves, as Mr Trkulja had incorrectly filled out a form for reporting offensive material by not including the URL of the content to which he objected.
And this is where I go from bemused to confused, so perhaps there’s an expert in Australian law out there somewhere who can help out on this one. The jury decided that Google merely indexing results doesn’t matter if Trkulja asked them to take the images off of search results, even though the jury acknowledges they aren’t liable for those results and find that Trkulja didn’t provide the actual URLs of the pictures he wanted removed. That would be like me walking up to a random person on the street, tapping them on the shoulder, telling them I didn’t like something they said once but couldn’t remember exactly what it was that offended me, demanded an apology, and then got a free down payment on a mansion when said random person didn’t comply.
Beyond that…what the hell? So images of gangsters showed up in image results because you got shot in Australian gangland wars (seriously, I thought you guys all fought with machetes). How is any of this a problem? I imagine that if you have an atypical name, search results of all kinds of people are going to show up in Google. Hell, let’s just test it out with my own name and see what happens. I’m sure the first image result of my name, Timothy Geigner, won’t be all that bad.
Oh, hell no. This injustice will not stand. Mike, get our lawyers on the phone. It’s mansion time.