The High Court of Australia last week ruled that Google is not a publisher. The judges determined that search engine hyperlinks do not constitute publication and that Google is not a publisher of the websites it links to in search results.
Since 2016, the search engine has been engaged in litigation with Melbourne lawyer George Defteros. He sued the US-based search engine for $40,000 after Google's refusal to remove a hyperlink to a newspaper article he claimed was defamatory.
In 2021, the Victorian court deemed Google to be the publisher of a defamatory article by an Australian newspaper in 2004, stating its search results were crucial in communicating the content to readers. The tech giant claimed that merely linking to a story did not constitute publishing and that it was, therefore, immune from liability for any defamatory content that may have been present.
The decision brings fresh confusion to a question that has been simmering in Australia for years about where liability rests for online defamation. A years-long review of the country's libel law is yet to give a final recommendation on whether large platforms like Google and Meta Platforms' Facebook should be accountable
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