Google was yesterday found liable for damages by a jury in Australia after a man complained that the website’s search results had harmed his reputation by wrongly linking him to Melbourne gang crime.
Milorad Trkulja, 62, was shot by a man wearing a balaclava in 2004, though police did not connect the shooting with gangland crime.
However, Mr Trkulja said online searches for his name using Google Images brought up pictures of other people, some of whom he claims are involved in murders and the drug trade, with his name displayed next to them.
Searches also displayed an image of Mr Trkulja accompanied by the caption “Melbourne crime”, which he says could have led people to believe he had links to the city’s underworld. Mr Trkulja also alleged that Google had refused to amend the links when asked by lawyers acting for him in 2009.
The US-based firm Google put forward a defence of “innocent dissemination”, claiming that the searches were a result of automated software. But the Supreme Court of Victoria ruled that Google should have removed the content when it received a complaint, and was liable for defamation.
Google did not immediately comment on the verdict, and could appeal. The level of damages is expected to be set within two weeks.