The Australian federal court ruled this week in favor of a former politician from New South Wales, ordering Google’s parent company, Alphabet, to pay AU$715,000 (US$515,000) for leaving up videos that defamed him.
The former deputy premier of New South Wales, John Barilaro, was in office in 2020, when a YouTube account began posting videos mocking him and making political commentary blaming him for the 2019-2020 bushfires that ravaged an estimated 60–84 million acres of land in Australia, and accusing him of corruption.
The videos made fun of Barilaro for his repeated victory in an annual spaghetti-eating contest, likening him to the Super Mario Brothers and saying he was “powered by spaghetti.” Barilaro is of Italian heritage.
Barilaro sued the content creator, Jordan Shanks, and Google in federal court in May 2021 for defamation and for not removing the videos. He claimed the videos had a hand in ending his political career. Barilaro resigned from office in October 2021.
The case against Shanks was settled in November last year, with the court ordering Shanks to apologize to Barilaro and pay $100,000 in legal fees, but not awarding any further amounts to be paid by Shanks. The case against Google remained active, however, until this week when the court ruled in favor of Barilaro.
The case opens up several questions about how online platforms should be regulated. Currently, Australia is one of the only countries that regulates online platforms the same way it does publishers and content creators.
“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 Professor David Rolph, a specialist in media law at the University of Sydney Law School, to CNBC. “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.”
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SEEKINGALPHA.COM
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