An Australian court ordered Google to pay a former politician, John Barilaro, A$715,000 ($515,000), saying its refusal to remove a YouTube content creator’s defamatory videos drove him out of politics.
The Federal Court found Alphabet Inc.’s subsidiary Google deliberately made money by hosting two videos on its YouTube website attacking Barliaro, the then-deputy premier of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, viewed almost 800,000 times since being uploaded in 2020.
The court’s ruling revived the question of how much culpability technology firms had for defamation carried by users on their Australian websites, one of the few Western countries where online platforms are held to the same legal responsibility as content publishers.
Australia is reviewing what legal exposure websites should have for defamatory posts. In 2021, a landmark case found a newspaper was liable for defamatory reader comments below an article posted on Meta’s Facebook. The courts ruling drove global firms to reduce their social media presence in the country.
The judgment revealed Google had denied the videos carried defamatory imputations and said the YouTuber had the right to an honestly held opinion and should be protected by the right to criticize a lawmaker.
Barilaro told reporters outside the court that he felt vindicated and cleared. He said that it was never about money, and it was about removal and apology.