An Australian court on Monday ordered Google to pay a former lawmaker A$715,000 ($515,000), claiming its failure to remove the “relentless, racist, defamatory, abusive and libelous video campaign” of a YouTuber l had driven out of politics.
The Federal Court has found that Alphabet Inc, which owns content-sharing website YouTube, made money by posting two videos attacking the Deputy Premier of New South Wales – the most populated from Australia – which had been viewed almost 800,000 times since their publication. end of 2020.
Google has previously been found guilty of defamation, typically for providing links to articles in search results, but Monday’s ruling is one of the first where the company has been found to be an active publisher – via YouTube – of content defaming an elected official.
In Australia, a review of defamation law examines whether online platforms should be held liable for the defamatory content they host. Google and other Internet giants say they cannot reasonably be expected to monitor all messages.
A Google spokesperson was unavailable for comment.
The court heard that content creator Jordan Shanks uploaded videos in which he repeatedly called lawmaker John Barilaro “corrupt” without citing credible evidence, and called him names attacking his Italian heritage. which, according to the judge, Steve Rares, amounted to “nothing less than hate speech”. ”.
By continuing to publish the content, Google violated its own policies to protect public figures from unfair targets and “prematurely ousted Mr. Barilaro from his chosen service in public life and significantly traumatized him,” it said. declared rare.
Barilaro quit politics a year after Shanks posted the videos, and “Google cannot escape liability for the substantial damage caused by Mr. Shanks’ campaign,” Rares added.
Shanks, who has 625,000 YouTube subscribers and 346,000 subscribers on Meta Platforms Inc’s FB.O Facebook was a co-defendant until a settlement with Barilaro last year that involved the YouTuber editing the videos and paying the former politician A$100,000.
But Shanks “needed YouTube to spread its poison (and) Google was willing to join Mr. Shanks in doing so to generate revenue as part of its business model,” the judge said.
Before the lawsuit was resolved, Shanks had continued to publicly attack Barilaro and his lawyers, and the judge said he would refer him and Google to authorities “for what appears to be serious contempt of court by exercising undue pressure … not to pursue this procedure”.
In a post on Facebook after the decision, Shanks, who goes by the friendlyjordies handle, mocked Barilaro, saying “you finally scored the Google coin… never having the truth tested in court.”
Shanks added, without evidence, that Barilaro “withdrew (his) action against us so that we would not testify or present our evidence” in support of his claims.
Barilaro told reporters outside the courthouse that he felt “exonerated and vindicated”.
“It was never about the money,” he said. “It was an apology, a dismissal. Of course, now an apology is worth nothing after the campaign continued. It took a court to force Google’s hand.