Get 40% Off
⚠ Earnings Alert! Which stocks are poised to surge?
See the stocks on our ProPicks radar. These strategies gained 19.7% year-to-date.
Unlock full list

Google ordered to pay Australian politician over defamatory YouTube videos

Published 06/05/2022, 09:41 PM
Updated 06/06/2022, 05:45 AM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store Chelsea in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) -An Australian court on Monday ordered Google to pay a former lawmaker A$715,000 ($515,000), saying its refusal to remove a YouTuber's "relentless, racist, vilificatory, abusive and defamatory" videos drove him out of politics.

The Federal Court found the Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc company intentionally made money by hosting two videos on its YouTube website attacking the then-deputy premier of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, that have been viewed nearly 800,000 times since being posted in 2020.

The ruling revives 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.

Australia is reviewing 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 (NASDAQ:FB), drove global firms to reduce their social media presence in the country.

The judgment showed Google had denied the videos carried defamatory imputations, and said the YouTuber had the right to an honestly held opinion and should be protected by the right to criticise a politician.

A Google spokesperson was not available for comment.

"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 continuing to publish the content, Rares said Google breached its own policies aimed at protecting public figures 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," Rares said.

Shanks, who has 625,000 YouTube subscribers and 346,000 followers on Meta Platforms Inc's Facebook, was a co-defendant until a settlement with Barilaro last year which involved the YouTuber editing the videos and paying the former politician A$100,000.

But 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," the judge said.

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 proceeding".

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".

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Google logo and Australian flag are displayed in this illustration taken, Feb. 18, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

"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."

($1 = 1.3883 Australian dollars)

Latest comments

Google is evil. It’s impossible to get ahokd of anyone to remove politically motovates bad reviews, videos and hate speech. It’s run by leftists.
Lol. Australia is canceling itself. America, the other rogue settlement of the empire is not far behind.
Sadly, the United Kingom is a hellhoke of obnoxiously high taxes, crappy healthcare and knife attacks. America defeated the British once and saved them from the NAZI’s. Without America England wouldn’t exist.
Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.