Man wins right to sue Google for defamation over image search results

The High Court has allowed an Australian man to sue Google for defamation

In 2012, Google was ordered to pay Aus$200,000 (US$150,000) in damages to Trkulja, who claimed he was defamed by material that implied he was a major crime figure and had been the target of a professional hit.

An Australian has won permission to sue Google for defamation over search results that he alleges link him to the country's criminal underworld.

Previous court rulings have given conflicting views.

Google Image searches for "Milorad Trkulja" have been bringing up images of Trkjula alongside images of Melbourne mob figures, including jailed drug trafficker Tony Mokbel, for more than 10 years.

Milorad Trkulja was shot in the back by an unknown gunman in Melbourne in 2004, at the time of a series of underworld killings.

Trkulja is also suing over alleged autocomplete suggestions for his name, which he has alleged included the phrases "is a former hitman", "criminal" and "underworld". In March, Trkulja's lawyer, Guy Reynolds, told the High Court his client's image appeared alongside the likes of Chopper Read, Mick Gatto, Carl Williams, Mario Condello and Mark and Jason Moran.

Milorad Trkuja
Camera Icon Milorad Trkuja

A Victorian state court ruled in favour of Google, but Australia's High Court has now upheld an appeal by Trkulja, paving the way for his defamation action.

In a unanimous judgment led by the chief justice, Susan Keifel, the court said it was to be assumed someone searching for members of the Melbourne criminal underworld would "rationally suppose" the people whose pictures or names appeared, or at least some of them, were members of such.

Trkulja said he would continue legal action against Google until it removed his name and photos from the internet.

"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". "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", the Aussie Associated Press news agency quoted Trkulja as saying.

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