High Court allows man to sue Google for defamation

Joanna Estrada
June 13, 2018

Milorad "Michael" Trkulja has convinced the Australian High Court that he should be allowed to sue Google for allegedly publishing photos that he has claimed "convey imputations that he "is a hardened and serious criminal in Melbourne"," according to an amended statement of claim referred to the High Court order (PDF).

Previous court rulings have given conflicting views, but judges in Australia and overseas have ruled against the search engine on several occasions.

A man who claims to be defamed by Google has now been given the green light to sue the search engine by the High Court.

Trkulja was shot in the back in a restaurant in Melbourne in 2004, according to local reports.

A Victorian Court of Appeal agreed with Google that the case had no real prospect of successfully proving defamation.

Four years later, the decision was overturned in the Victorian Court of Appeal, but today, the High Court disputed that ruling and ordered Google pay Trkulja's legal costs.

However, Google's lawyers argued it would be "irrational" for someone to assume photos in a Google image search for underworld figures are all of criminals, because the same search would also bring up the Google logo, movie posters, images of crime victims and photos of actor Marlon Brando.

But Cheif Justic Susan Keifel disagreed, saying if someone searched for information on Melbourne underworld figures and Trkulja's image or name appeared, that person could "rationally suppose" there was a link between the search query and the result.

Trkulja says similar results appear in autocomplete entries alongside searches for phrases like "Melbourne underworld criminals".

Trkulja said he would continue legal action against Google until it removed his name and photos from the internet. "I'm not a criminal, I've never been involved and I will make sure these people are not going to ruin my family - I have grandchildren".

"It would be open to a jury to conclude that an ordinary reasonable person using the Google search engine would infer that the persons pictured whose identities are unknown are persons, like the notorious criminals with whom they are pictured, in some fashion opprobriously connected with criminality and the Melbourne criminal underworld", the judgment said. "I want them to block my pictures", he said.

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