Google Ordered To Pay This Man For Defamation

John Barilaro quit politics a year after Shanks posted the videos

Google has on Monday May 6, been asked by court to pay a former politician A$715,000 ($515,000), due to its refusal to remove a YouTuber’s “persistent, bigot, vilificatory, oppressive and disparaging” videos which drove the said man out of politics.

The decision resuscitates the question of how much culpability technology firms have for defamation conveyed by users on their websites in Australia, one of few Western nations where online platforms have the same legal responsibility as publishers.

Meanwhile, Australia is evaluating what legal exposure platforms should have for defamatory posts. A landmark case in 2021, where a newspaper was found liable for defamatory reader comments below an article posted on Facebook, drove global firms to reduce their social media presence in the country.

The Federal Court found that, the Alphabet organization deliberately made money by hosting two videos on its YouTube site going after the then-premier head of New South Wales, Australia’s most crowded state, that have been seen almost multiple times since being posted in 2020.

The judgment showed Google had denied the videos conveyed disparaging attributions, and said the YouTuber reserved the option to a really held assessment and ought to be safeguarded by the option to condemn a lawmaker.

“They (Google) were advised that those defamatory videos were there, they looked into it, they decided for themselves that they weren’t, and left them up,” said Prof David Rolph, a specialist in media law at the University of Sydney Law School.

“That’s an orthodox application of the basic principles of publication in defamation law (but) leaves the larger question about whether we need to reform the principles of publication.”

The court heard that content creator Jordan Shanks uploaded videos in which he repeatedly brands lawmaker John Barilaro “corrupt” without citing credible evidence, and calls him names attacking his Italian heritage which the judge, Steve Rares, said amounted to “nothing less than hate speech”.

By proceeding to publish the content, Rares said Google penetrated its own arrangements pointed toward protecting well known people from from being unfairly targeted, and “drove Mr Barilaro prematurely from his chosen service in public life and traumatised him significantly.”

Barilaro quit politics a year after Shanks posted the videos, and “Google cannot escape its liability for the substantial damage that Mr Shanks’ campaign caused.

Shanks, who has 625,000 YouTube subscribers and 346,000 followers on Meta Platform’s Facebook, was a co-litigant until a settlement with Barilaro last year which included the YouTuber altering the recordings and paying the former politician A$100,000.

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As per the appointed authority who sat in the case, Shanks “needed YouTube to disseminate his poison (and) Google was willing to join Mr Shanks in doing so to earn revenue as part of its business model.

Before the lawsuit was resolved, Shanks continued to make disparaging comments about Barilaro and his lawyers in YouTube videos, and the judge said he would refer him and Google to the authorities “for what appear to be serious contempts of court by bringing improper pressure … not to pursue this

In a Facebook post after the ruling, Shanks, who goes by the handle friendlyjordies, mocked Barilaro, saying “you finally scored the coin from Google … without ever having the truth tested in court”.

Shanks added, without evidence, that Barilaro “withdrew (his) action against us so we wouldn’t testify or present our evidence” in support of the YouTuber’s claims.

Barilaro told reporters outside the courthouse that he felt “cleared and vindicated”.

“It was never about money,” he said. “It was about an apology, removal. Of course, now an apology is worthless after the campaign has continued. It’s taken a court to force Google’s hand.”


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