A man who claims Google has defamed him has won his High Court battle to sue the search engine giant.
The court ruled in favour of Milorad “Michael” Trkulja in a judgment on Wednesday, supporting his claim that search engine results could indicate to an ordinary person he was “somehow associated with the Melbourne criminal underworld”.
Mr Trkulja, who was shot in the back in a Melbourne restaurant in 2004, successfully argued in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2012 that Google defamed him by publishing photos of him linked to hardened criminals of Melbourne’s underworld.
Four years later, the Victorian Court of Appeal overturned the decision, finding the case had no prospect of successfully proving defamation.
The High Court disputed that ruling and ordered Google pay Mr Trkulja’s costs.
Google searches for “Melbourne criminal underworld photos” bring up images of Mr Trkulja alongside gangland figures Mick Gatto, Carl Williams, Chopper Reid, Mario Condello and Mark and Jason Moran, his lawyer Guy Reynolds told the High Court in March.
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.
Mr Trkulja is also claiming defamation around Google’s “autocomplete” options for his name, which have included phrases like “is a former hit man”, “criminal” and “underworld”.
However, the court heard autocomplete is an automatic function and that previous searches influence future suggestions.