Australian court orders Google to pay £411,000 over defamatory YouTube videos

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An Australian court has ordered Google to pay a former politician A$715,000 (£411,000) over two defamatory YouTube videos.

John Barilaro, the former Deputy Premier of New South Wales, had sued Google and comedian Jordan Shanks, also known as friendlyjordies, in Federal Court over the videos.

Judge Steven Rares found that Mr Barilaro had been “the subject of a relentless, racist, abusive and defamatory campaign carried out on YouTube”, a platform owned by Google.

Mr Barilaro told reporters outside the court in Sydney that he felt “vindicated” by the judgment.

“But I’m glad it’s the end of the trip. You have to be brave or stupid to take on Google, and maybe it was a bit of both,” Barilaro added.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

His attorney, Paul Svilans, said it was the only case he knew of where Google had been sued for defamation through its YouTube operation.

Mr. Barilaro would not have sued if Google had removed the videos, uploaded in September and October 2020, as requested by letter in December of that year, he said.

“Once they get our letter and we say it’s defamatory, it’s racist, you should take it down and they don’t take it down, so they’re charged like any other editor,” said Mr Svilans.

“This is a trillion dollar business that facilitated the publication of horribly racist material about John,” he said.

The videos have been viewed tens of thousands of times and have earned Google thousands of dollars, the judge said.

John Barilaro, former Deputy Premier of New South Wales (Bianca De Marchi/AAP Image via AP)

A four-day hearing in March focused solely on how much damages Google would pay.

Court costs will be awarded later.

Mr Barilaro’s case against Mr Shanks was settled in November last year when the comedian and political commentator issued an apology, agreed to pay 100,000 Australian dollars (£57,000) and edited the videos.

Mr Shanks’ campaign had been cited as a reason for Mr Barilaro’s decision to retire from politics last year.

Judge Rares said Google repeatedly failed to take responsibility for its conduct as a publisher.

Google is fighting in Australia’s highest court against a Victorian state court ruling that its search engine defamed Melbourne mob lawyer George Defteros.

Mr Defteros successfully sued Google for A$40,000 (£23,000) in 2020 because the search engine directed traffic to a 2004 article in The Age newspaper which reported he had been accused of conspiracy and incitement to the murder of gang figures.

The charges were dropped in 2005.

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