Google wins libel battle as Australian High Court finds tech giant not a publisher | Google

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Australia’s highest court has ruled Google is not a publisher of the websites it links to in search results, finding the internet giant did not defame a Victorian barrister known to represent public figures from the underworld.

The High Court found on Wednesday that Google was not the publisher of a defamatory article published by The Age about George Defteros in 2004, as it was a search engine which merely provided hyperlinks to that content.

“In reality, a hyperlink is just a tool that allows a person to navigate to another web page,” the judgment said.

The court rejected Defteros’ claim that the search results ‘prompted’ the person seeking to open the website, finding that a person would already be looking for particular information before the result was received .

Defteros had clients including mobsters Alphonse Gangitano and Mario Condello, and underworld identity Mick Gatto.

The lawyer was charged alongside Condello with conspiracy to murder and instigating the murder of killer Carl Williams, his father George and another man, although the charges against Defteros were later dropped.

He then successfully sued Google, arguing that the publication of a 2004 article about his arrest for conspiracy and incitement to murder defamed him.

Google was notified of the defamatory article in February 2016, but did not remove it until December of the same year. It was consulted 150 times between these months.

Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards in 2020 ruled the article suggested Defteros had overstepped the bounds of being a professional lawyer for a confidant and friend of criminal elements, and ordered he be given 40,000 $ damages.

This finding was upheld by the Court of Appeal, but has now been overturned by the High Court.

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