Marking a victorious ruling for Google, a high Australian court found that the search engine cannot be considered the publisher of material on other websites.
Google is not liable for defamatory content that readers can access through a hyperlink in its search results, according to reports on Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal.
The court categorized the link as a tool to access information, according to the WSJ, citing court documents.
This decision could resonate into the United States court system, where government officials have long wanted to hold search engines accountable for content that they link to in query results.
George Defteros, a lawyer, alleged a Google search of his name returned a hyperlink to and a snippet of a defamatory newspaper article.
Prior to this decision by higher courts, lower courts found that the article implied Defteros had become a friend of criminal elements. The lower court documents explain that Google could be considered a publisher of the article because the search result was crucial to communicating its contents to end users.
Google, at the time, was ordered to pay damages of 40,000 Australian dollars, equivalent to $28,100.
Google appealed the decision. Today, the High Court of Australia ruled Google facilitated access to the content, but is not responsible for publishing the defamatory material and can’t be held liable.
Earlier Australian court rulings found social-media and news organizations liable for content on their respective platforms.
It has turned into a free-for-all in the court system, blaming search engines, social media platforms and newspaper and television stations for comments posted online related to content.
A lower-court judge in June ordered Google to pay about $515,000 for videos posted on its YouTube platform that were found defamatory.
Last year, per the WSJ, the Australian high court ruled that newspapers and television stations were liable for user comments on articles the papers and stations post on Facebook, Meta’s social media platform.