Man wins right to sue Google for defamation over im­age search re­sults

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines / News -

Mel­bourne man Milo­rad “Michael” Trkulja has won his high court bat­tle to sue the search en­gine Google for defamation over im­ages and search re­sults that link him to the Mel­bourne crim­i­nal un­der­world.

Trkulja said he would con­tinue le­gal ac­tion against Google un­til it re­moved his name and pho­tos from the in­ter­net.

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Trkulja, who was shot in the back in a Mel­bourne res­tau­rant in 2004, suc­cess­fully ar­gued in the Vic­to­rian supreme court in 2012 that Google de­famed him by pub­lish­ing pho­tos of him linked to hard­ened crim­i­nals of Mel­bourne’s un­der­world.

Four years later the Vic­to­rian court of ap­peal over­turned the de­ci­sion, find­ing the case had no prospect of suc­cess­fully prov­ing defamation.

The high court dis­puted that rul­ing in a judg­ment on Wed­nes­day and or­dered Google to pay Trkulja’s le­gal costs.

Trkulja said he would con­tinue the le­gal ac­tion un­til he got the re­sult

he wanted.

“I will sue Google … and I will sue them til they stop. I want them to block my pic­tures,” he said. “I’m not a crim­i­nal, I’ve never been in­volved and I will make sure these peo­ple are not go­ing to ruin my fam­ily – I have grand­chil­dren.”

Google searches for “Mel­bourne crim­i­nal un­der­world pho­tos” bring up im­ages of Trkulja along­side gang­land fig­ures Mick Gatto, Carl Wil­liams, Chop­per Reid, Mario Con­dello and Mark and Ja­son Mo­ran, Trkulja’s lawyer Guy Reynolds told the high court in March.

How­ever, Google’s lawyers ar­gued it would be “ir­ra­tional” for some­one to as­sume pho­tos in a Google im­age search for un­der­world fig­ures all showed crim­i­nals, be­cause the same search would also bring up the Google logo, movie posters, im­ages of crime vic­tims and pho­tos of ac­tor Mar­lon Brando.

In a unan­i­mous judg­ment led by the chief jus­tice, Su­san Keifel, the court said it was to be as­sumed some­one search­ing for mem­bers of the Mel­bourne crim­i­nal un­der­world would “ra­tio­nally sup­pose” the peo­ple whose pic­tures or names ap­peared, or at least some of them, were mem­bers of such.

The court found while it was clear some of those pic­tured, such as Brando, were not crim­i­nals, it could be con­cluded some­one who was rel­a­tively un­known, such as Trkulja, could be con­nected with crim­i­nal­ity or the un­der­world.

Trkulja also claimed defamation around Google’s “au­to­com­plete” op­tions for his name, which have in­cluded phrases like “is a for­mer hit man”, “crim­i­nal” and “un­der­world”.

How­ever, the court heard au­to­com­plete was an au­to­mated func­tion and that pre­vi­ous searches in­flu­enced fu­ture sug­ges­tions.

Com­ment is be­ing sought from Google.

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