No this isn’t about anyone getting hit below the belt. It’s about a legal ruling in Australia that claims Google’s treatment of content that appeared in their search results was harmful to someone.
What you ask?! Isn’t that going to open a Pandora’s box which every search result / ambulance chasing lawyer would like to get into? Possibly but it’s far too early to tell.
Do Google search results amount to content that the company “publishes” and is responsible for? One high court in Australia says yes — and the decision, if unchanged on appeal, could have far-reaching repercussions.
For starters, Google will be forced to pay $200,000 to music promoter Milorad Trkulja, the plaintiff in this case. Trkulja brought the suit in 2009 after Google refused to remove links to sites that claimed, incorrectly, that the promoter has connections to organized crime in Melbourne.
Google only got itself in ‘trouble’ after it did not follow through on a take down request. The courts didn’t feel that how Google put the results in the order that it did was wrong but they felt there was an issue when the complaint to take down the information was not granted.
Honestly, I don’t know what this could mean for search engines in general but I do suspect that there will be a fair amount of ‘me too’ lawsuits popping up in Australia at least since the precedent now exists (pending appeal). As the Mashable article puts it
Naturally, Google is appealing the ruling. The result, if it stands, would not make Google responsible for all the Web’s content, as some have claimed. But it may well force it to comply with every takedown notice it receives from an Australian citizen — and make the Internet Down Under look a lot thinner.
I can see both sides here (of course assuming that the complaint is actually true) but with the sheer volume of information in Google’s index imagine just how many other of these potential legal time bombs could be ticking.