Google has asked Australia’s Supreme Court to overturn a 2020 ruling, which it warns could have a “devastating” effect on the wider internet. In a search giant released Friday, Google claims it will be forced to “act as censorship” if the country’s highest court rules out a decision awarding a lawyer $40,000 in defamation damages for an article the company submitted via its website. had linked, not destroyed. search engine, reports .
In 2016, George Defteros, a Victoria attorney whose client list included individuals associated with Melbourne’s , contacted Google to ask the company to remove a 2004 article from . The piece included reporting on murder charges that prosecutors had filed against Defteros in connection with the deaths of three men. Those charges were later dropped in 2005. The company declined to remove the article from search results because it considered the publication a reliable source.
The case eventually went to court, with Defteros successfully contesting the article and Google’s search results defaming him. The judge who oversaw the case ruled The ages reports had suggested that Defteros had been friends with Melbourne’s criminal underground. The Victorian Court of Appeals subsequently rejected a bid from Google to overturn the ruling.
From Google’s perspective, this is one of the fundamental building blocks of the Internet. “A hyperlink is not in itself the communication of what it refers to,” the company said in its statement to the High Court. If the 2020 verdict stands, Google claims it will “be liable as the publisher of any matter published on the Internet and hyperlinked to in its search results,” including news stories sourced from reputable sources. In its defense, the company points out to one of the Supreme Court of Canada that a hyperlink in itself is never a publication of defamatory material.
We’ve reached out to Google for comment.