The South Australian Supreme Court this week found that Google is legally responsible when its search results link to defamatory content on the web.
In this long-running case, Dr Janice Duffy has been trying for more than six years to clear her name and remove links to defamatory material when people search for her using Google.
The main culprit is the US based website Ripoff Reports, where people have posted negative reviews of Dr Duffy. Under United States law, defamation is very hard to prove, and US websites are not liable for comments made by their users.
Since it was not possible to get harmful or abusive comments removed from the source, Dr Duffy instead asked Google to remove the links from its search results. Google removed some of these links, but only from its Australian domain (google.com.au), and it left many of them active.
This latest court decision is a big win for Dr Duffy. The court found that once Google was alerted to the defamatory material, it was then under an obligation to act to censor its search results and prevent further harm to Dr Duffy’s reputation.
This case is not yet over. It now goes back to court on on November 3 to establish damages that Google may be ordered to pay. Google may also choose to appeal to the High Court.
This case highlights a complex jurisdiction problem: this case was against Google Inc, a US company, not Google Australia. Dr Duffy lost a case against Google Australia several years ago, because the court found that the search giant’s Australian arm had no effective control over search results.… Read the rest