Former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro told court that Google’s refusal to remove ‘despicable and racist’ videos made him reluctant to leave his home and left him pushed to consider “self-harm”.
- John Barilaro claimed the videos sparked a wave of hate mail online
- He said he was reluctant to leave his home after being confronted by members of the public
- Barilaro accused Google of trying to drive him to ‘financial ruin’
Mr Barilaro is suing the tech giant for defamation over two videos posted to its YouTube channel in 2020 by comedian Jordan Shanks, known online as FriendlyJordies.
Mr Shanks settled a separate defamation suit brought by Mr Barilaro last year after he apologized and agreed to make a number of edits to his videos, but no compensation was paid.
Testifying in the case against Google in federal court, Mr. Barilaro became emotional as he described the impact of the tech giant’s continued refusal to remove Mr. Shanks’ videos, which he says caused him to to consider self-harm.
“I hate Google,” Mr. Barilaro told the court.
“The abuse I’ve been subjected to, I lay squarely at Google’s feet.”
The videos in question, titled “Bruz” and “Secret Dictatorship,” have garnered hundreds of thousands of views.
They claim that Mr Barilaro is “a big, decadent crook” and are filled with racial slurs and stereotypes, linking him to the Mafia and calling him a “big moron”.
Despite numerous complaints to Google from Mr. Barilaro’s legal team, the videos remain online.
“I will never walk away from it – the damage is done,” said Mr Barilaro, who left politics last year.
“After testifying today, you look at what happens overnight, I’ll handle it.”
The former Monaro MP testified that the videos made him the target of an “army of online hate” and left him reluctant to leave the house after a series of “intimidating” encounters.
He said members of the public who viewed the videos would confront him aggressively, showing FriendlyJordies products mocking him and calling him a “corrupt piece of shit”.
He described an encounter at the Apple store in Bondi, which took place while he was with his youngest daughter.
“The guy was very aggressive and aggressive. My daughter, who was five or six years old, clung to my leg.
“That’s when I knew it was beyond me to be hunted down or attacked.”
Google originally intended to argue that the videos were an honest opinion and in the public interest, but yesterday afternoon it informed Mr Barilaro that it would no longer rely on any defenses throughout the trial.
The company effectively agreed to have defamed Mr. Barilaro but refused to apologize.
Mr Barilaro told the court that the fact that they maintained their defenses for seven months and then suddenly dropped them without explanation was a “deliberate approach” to drive him to financial ruin.
“I am broken, you heard me cry on the phone about this,” Mr Barilaro told his lawyer, Sue Chrysanthou SC, during questioning.
He revealed that he had been advised by many colleagues not to take legal action over the videos, including former Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.
“The Prime Minister said ‘Leave him alone’. She didn’t want me to face FriendlyJordies,” he said.
“Maybe that was advice I should have taken.”
The former NSW Nationals leader said Google’s refusal to remove the videos had led to significant family tensions, with some close to him blaming him for entering politics.
The ‘Bruz’ video was shot on a farm owned by the Barilaros, which his ex-wife had unwittingly rented to Mr Shanks through AirBnB.
In the video, the YouTuber placed Nintendo Mario character toys throughout the house, including in one of the beds.
“Waking up with Mario in bed – it’s a scene from ‘The Godfather’,” Mr Barilaro told the court.
“If Google can’t see these videos for what they are, then there’s something wrong with Australian or American companies.
“They’re supposed to be responsible corporate citizens and they’re not.”
Ms Chrysanthou told the court yesterday that Google had clearly breached its own Community Guidelines on hate speech and harassment of people on the basis of race.
She said it was an aggravating factor and urged Judge Steven Rares to award Mr Barilaro “top of the line” damages.