Court Orders Google: Pay Aussie Politician Over Malicious YouTube Videos
Updated: Jun 8, 2022
An Australian court has ordered Google to pay a former lawmaker A$715,000 ($515,000), claiming that the company's failure to remove a YouTuber's "relentless, racist, vilificatory, abusive, and defamatory campaign" of videos drove him out of politics, Byron Kaye reported for Reuters.
Photo Insert: The court heard that content creator Jordan Shanks posted videos in which he repeatedly called lawmaker John Barilaro "corrupt" without citing credible evidence and called him names disparaging his Italian heritage.
The Federal Court ruled that Alphabet Inc., which owns the video-sharing website YouTube, made money by broadcasting two videos criticizing the then-deputy premier of New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, that have been viewed nearly 800,000 times since they were posted in late 2020.
Google has previously been found liable for defamation, usually for including links to articles in search results, but Monday's decision is one of the first in which the company was found to be an active publisher - via YouTube - of content that defamed an elected official.
In Australia, a defamation law review is looking into whether online platforms should be held accountable for the defamatory content they host. Google and other internet behemoths argue that they cannot be expected to police all posts.
The court heard that content creator Jordan Shanks posted videos in which he repeatedly called lawmaker John Barilaro "corrupt" without citing credible evidence and called him names disparaging his Italian heritage, which the judge, Steve Rares, described as "nothing less than hate speech."
By continuing to publish the content, Google breached its own policies of protecting public figures from being unfairly targeted and "drove Barilaro prematurely from his chosen service in public life and traumatized him significantly," Rares said.
Barilaro quit politics a year after Shanks posted the videos, and "Google cannot escape its liability for the substantial damage that Mr. Shanks' campaign caused," Rares added.
Shanks, who has 625,000 YouTube subscribers and 346,000 Facebook followers on Meta Platforms Inc., was a co-defendant until a settlement with Barilaro last year, in which the YouTuber edited the videos and paid the former politician A$100,000.