SYDNEY – An Australian court on Monday (June 6) ordered Google to pay A$715,000 (S$708,400) to a prominent former lawmaker on Monday (June 6) claiming it failed to bring down a YouTuber “ relentless, racist, defamatory, abusive and defamatory campaign” videos drove him out of politics.
The Federal Court has found that Alphabet Inc’s Google, which owns content-sharing website YouTube, made thousands of dollars by hosting two videos attacking the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, which have been viewed almost 800,000 times since their publication in late 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, Mr. Steve Rares, amounted to “nothing less than hatred”. 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 Mr. Rares.
Mr. Barilaro quit politics a year after Mr. Shanks posted the videos, and “Google cannot escape liability for the substantial damage caused by Mr. Shanks’ campaign,” Mr. Rares added.
Mr Shanks, who has 625,000 YouTube subscribers and 346,000 followers on Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, was co-accused until a settlement with Mr Barilaro last year which involved the YouTuber editing the videos and paying A$100,000 to the former politician.
But Mr. Shanks “needed YouTube to spread his 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, Mr. Shanks had continued to publicly attack Mr. Barilaro and his lawyers, and the judge said he would refer him and Google to the authorities “for what appears to be serious contempt in court by exerting undue pressure… not to pursue this procedure”.
In a Facebook post after the ruling, Mr Shanks, who goes by the friendlyjordies handle, mocked Mr Barilaro saying “you finally scored the Google coin… never having the truth tested in front of a court”.
Mr Shanks added, without evidence, that Mr Barilaro “withdrew (his) action against us so that we would not testify or present our evidence” in support of his claims.
Mr Barilaro told reporters outside the courthouse that he felt “exonerated and vindicated”.
“It was never about the money,” he said. “It was all about an apology, dismissal. Of course, now an apology is worthless after the campaign is over. It took a court to force Google’s hand.