Researcher Headed To Australian Supreme Court In Attempt To Hold Google Responsible For Posts At Ripoff Reports [Updated]

from the six-degrees-of-imagined-search-engine-liability dept

If you want to know how misguided this lawsuit it, just read the subheadline:

IN a South Australian-first, internet giant Google is being sued by an Adelaide academic who claims she has been defamed by a US-based website it links to.

Do you see the problem here? Health researcher Janice Duffy is obviously intelligent, but she’s been trying to hold Google responsible for Ripoff Report’s actions for nearly six years now, draining what’s left of her savings and leaving her to crowdfund her self-represented last stand against Google in the South Australian Supreme Court.

What she claims has happened as a result of the allegedly defamatory posts at Ripoff Reports is genuinely awful.

Dr Duffy said she had been unemployed since she was forced to leave her SA Health position in 2010 after her colleagues learnt of the false claims about her on the website, and she believed she had not been able to find work since because of it.

She said that she had since suffered intense depression and often contemplated suicide because of the situation, but was determined to have Google remove the links and seek compensation through the court action.

But her assertions take a turn for the quixotic when she mentions other options considered and discarded.

Dr Duffy said the website [Ripoff Report] charges people up to $10,000 per page to remove offending material, but she could not afford this as she had spent all of her savings and superannuation fighting Google in court.

I would never encourage someone to cave to borderline extortionate demands — and Ripoff Reports is far from the paragon of online virtue — but if she had the money at her disposal and spent it all targeting the company that returns search results, rather than the company hosting the material or, better yet, the person who wrote the posts, it’s tough to be wholly sympathetic. [UPDATE: In contradiction to her own statements to the Adelaide Advertiser, Dr. Duffy claims to have attempted to pay Ripoff Report to remove the posts.]

But she’s going to keep fighting, sunk cost fallacy be damned. What little she does have going for her in this quest to make Google pay for its refusal to delist allegedly defamatory content without a court order is her native country’s rather dubious court decisions and the lack of Section 230-esque protections, which brings the prospect of winning within the realm of imagination.

On her personal blog, she posits this rhetorical question:

I still cannot figure out why Google would pay three law firms, two barristers and a QC literally hundreds of thousands of dollars rather then just remove the links to the defamtory content. That is all I wanted, for them to be removed. And yet, here I am almost 6 years and a couple of dozen removal notifications later facing a trial.

The answer, of course, is that this case — while deeply personal to Dr. Duffy — isn’t just about her. Ceding this ground would allow others less suitably injured to use Google as their own personal reputation management firm. It would allow copyright holders to provide even flimsier justifications for link delisting. And it would open Google up to several similar lawsuits from parties who find it easier to target Google for alleged slights, rather than the authors of defamatory posts. This is why Google’s fighting so hard and this is why it really shouldn’t be fighting this battle at all.

In its defence, Google claims its activities do not render it “a publisher at all, or in the alternative, the publisher of the matters complained of’’.

The legitimate target(s) of a defamation suit include:

1. The person who uttered the defamatory statements.

All else is simply pray-and-spray litigation. Different laws in different countries will raise or lower the effectiveness of this praying/spraying, and certain countries are willing to overlook logic simply to bash large American companies, but in terms of legitimate lawsuits, the only party that should be listed as a defendant is the defamer. There are discovery routes towards discovering the true identities of anonymous/pseudonymous parties. And yes, this option will increase expenditures. But targeting the biggest, most publicly available names — no matter how distantly “involved” — isn’t exactly a money saver either, as Janice Duffy has discovered.

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Companies: google, ripoff report

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Comments on “Researcher Headed To Australian Supreme Court In Attempt To Hold Google Responsible For Posts At Ripoff Reports [Updated]”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting reading up on this…. Apparently she has a PHD but it appears she was highly involved in being a psychic. Most of the alleged claims were of her stalking and not letting go…

Oddly enough much of the allegations was of her actually posting or threatening to post on ripoffreports about others…

So now she is waging this falsely directed battle against Google and not letting go…

The thing is the allegations wouldn’t prevent her from working.. I mean she could’ve laughed off the allegations and gotten hired somehow, somewhere in the eight years since the allegations first occurred.

But she hasn’t…only giving further credence in the allegations.

Anonymous Coward says:

didn’t i read something of this nature a week or so ago? the EU court had ruled that web sites or ISPs or someone have suddenly been pronounced that they are responsible and prosecutable for the comments of people or members on their sites. i cant remember exactly what it was but it removed the protection that had been in place until then. this sounds like a similar example! i dont know who is lining their pockets but those sitting on the bench of this EU court seem to have suddenly decided that nothing as far as freedom and privacy is worth anything, unlike the availability to sue some fucker for what someone else said. it’s like making parents responsible for everything kids say, from the time they start to talk. bloody ridiculous!

G Thompson (profile) says:

This woman is trying to use the ruling in Gutnick to be relevant in Google’s case, when in fact Gutnick has no relevance here since Google is NOT a publisher in this matter.

The person she should be suing is Ripoff Reports instead which under the Gutnick ruling she probably has a better chance of success.

Though unlike the respondents in Gutnick (Dow Jones and Co), Ripoff Reports has no offices in Australia so a comity action on a success would not be available either.

Gutnick refers to “Dow Jones and Company Inc v Gutnick [2002] HCA 56” and is found at

Nop (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“since Google is NOT a publisher in this matter.”
You’re right about Gutnick being the wrong precedent, but there’s actually an older, better one she could be using instead: Godfrey vs Demon Internet, which was over a Usenet post that defamed Godfrey, & was won in the UK, which (unsurprisingly) has very closely related laws to those of Australia:

ror not for consmuers (profile) says:

Prenda Law Scam by Duffy in 2010

Duffy participated in the false flag copyright-enforcement crusade in 2010, through Prenda Law. The litigation strategy consisted of monitoring BitTorrent download activity of their copyrighted pornographic movies, recording IP addresses of the computers downloading the movies, filing suit in federal court to subpoena Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) for the identity of the subscribers to these IP addresses, and sending cease-and-desist letters to the subscribers, offering to settle each copyright infringement claim for about $4,000.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Once again allegedly intelligent people who for some idiotic defect in logic think the Google is the internet.

– Google links to it, they owe me.
This is also seen as going after the deepest pockets who, once upon a time, might have paid these delusional idiots to just shut up and go away.

– Google links to it, they are responsible.
Look at all of the DMCA takedowns sent, a HUGE majority of them target Google… not the site hosting the alleged infringing content. (Alleged is used properly here as one need look at about 10 notices to see the huge defects in detection.)

– Google should just do what I want.
Google has the spine to stand up to these petty morons, because it will cost them far much more to cave in. Look at how much they have had to sink into the DMCA processing, and the nightmare let they it become. Had they gone to court & made the solid case of we just index we do not host, promote, post any of these thing and gotten a Judge smart enough to understand Google is not the internet they could have escaped the nightmare.

Google is not a magic wand like politicians and idiots (same diff) want it to be. They should not be the sole target of laws & demands. It might make them work to try and target those they should but with Google being the internet to so many people it makes a better soundbite.

I hope the researcher fails, and the court finally suggest that she researches why she lost. But then I’m guessing she isn’t that much of a researcher given her activities so far.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


So wait, lemme get this…
because Google showed a snippet in the search result, they somehow magically wrote the content and published it. This is the amazing battle.

That is almost as impressive as the legal document where a Judge ordered Google to turn over information on the identities of people who posted on ripoff report. Google knows a lot of stuff, but how would they have information about posters on a site they don’t run or control?

Anonymous Coward says:

It's a publicity campaign for Duffy and her business partners Reputation Management company that offers removal of content from Google.

Janice and her business partner have been using an automated technology to generate defamatory content about individuals and corporations that value their reputations the bigger the better. We’re talking about a whole new strain of WMDs weapons of mass defamation. Think about it: What if allegations of pedophilia were to pop up the next time you Google your name? Or obscene stories about your wife or your daughter? When we’re talking about the potential ruin of your career, your marriage, or your child’s future, money is no object and these predators know it. When the time is right, you’ll get an email and it’ll be Duffy and her business partner to the rescue antidote in one hand, anthrax in the other.

Anonymous Coward (user link) says:

Re: It's a publicity campaign for Duffy and her business partners Reputation Management company that offers removal of content from Google.

Darren M. Meade says he was paid to write lies about Dr. Duffy on behalf of the Ripoff Report. But Meade wrote lies because he has a vendetta against them and are trying to blame Ed.

Meade is a liar and he has offered no proff that the Ripoff Report targeted Dr. duffy with false accusations.

Darren M. Meade writes bogus stories and tried to get the Ripoff Report in trouble.

The Ripoff Report NEVER targeted Australians like Dr Duffy. Darren M. Meade is a liar.

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