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Melbourne man loses fight with Google

AAP logoAAP 19/12/2016 Melissa Iaria

An appeals court has found in favour of Google after a Melbourne man claimed the search engine had defamed him by publishing photos of him linked to hardened criminals of Melbourne's underworld.

Milorad Trkulja sued Google, arguing when search terms such as Melbourne criminal underworld photos and Melbourne underworld criminals were entered, images of him showed up.

He argued the search results put him in the same league as convicted murderer Carl Williams, underworld killer Andrew "Benji" Veniamin and drug kingpin Tony Mokbel.

Google tried unsuccessfully to have the case against it set aside on the grounds it had no real prospect of success.

It argued it could not be held to be the publisher of the search results, because they were produced by the automated operation of a vast web search based on algorithms.

Further, it argued the search results were incapable of being found to have defamed Mr Trkulja.

On Tuesday, Victoria's Court of Appeal ruled Google's appeal should be allowed.

"The appeal has a real, not fanciful, prospect of success," the judges said.

The judges held that, as the case was put, Google could not be held to be publisher of the allegedly defamatory material.

They also found the material on which Mr Trkulja sued was not capable of conveying any defamatory meanings.

The judges acknowledged Mr Trkulja could have argued his case in a way that enabled the appeal judges to find Google did publish the material, but he didn't.

They noted the chance for a search engine to produce results that could defame someone was "acute".

But if search engines were to have immunity from liability for defamation, it should come from the parliament rather than the courts, they said.

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