Google faces defamation case after Australian man Googled himself

Some of us like to search ourselves on Google. When Milorad Trkulja did it, he got a nasty surprise.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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Google is under fire after a man in Australia got the go-ahead Tuesday to sue the search giant for defamation, according to an ABC report.

Milorad Trkulja was shot by an unknown gunman in Melbourne in 2004, then discovered that Google searches of his name brought up images of mob figures, including convicted drug trafficker Tony Mokbel. Gang activity in the city was prevalent at the time.

Trkulja successfully sued Google for defamation in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2012, receiving damages of AU$200,000 (roughly $150,000). He launched a second defamation action in 2013, alleging that Google's autocomplete predictions, as well as searching phrases such as "Melbourne underworld criminals", wrongly brought up his name and image. Google took the case to the Victorian Court of Appeal and won that round.

Now the High Court has granted Trkulja special leave to appeal that decision.

"In each of the pages on which images of such persons appear," the judgement said according to the ABC, "there are also images of persons who are notorious criminals or members of the Melbourne criminal underworld... coupled with images of persons, such as Mr Trkulja whose identity is relatively unknown."

Google tried to stop the case, but the High Court ruled there was clear potential for defamation.

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction, June 13 at 6:04 a.m. PT: The original photograph in this story misidentified the subject in the image. The photo has been changed.