High Court rules Google is not a publisher

Australia’s highest court has ruled Google is not a publisher, finding the internet giant did not defame a Victorian lawyer known for representing underworld figures.

Photo: AAP/Quentin Jones

Photo: AAP/Quentin Jones

The High Court on Wednesday found Google was not the publisher of a defamatory article by The Age about George Defteros in 2004, as it was a search engine that merely provided hyperlinks to such content.

“In reality, a hyperlink is merely a tool which enables a person to navigate to another webpage,” the judgment said.

The court rejected Defteros’ claim that search results “enticed” the person searching the website, finding a person would already be searching for information before the result is received.

Defteros had clients including gangsters Alphonse Gangitano and Mario Condello, and underworld identity Mick Gatto.

The lawyer was charged alongside Condello with the conspiracy to murder and incitement to murder killer Carl Williams, his father George and another man.

He then successfully sued Google, arguing its publication of a 2004 article about his arrest on conspiracy and incitement to murder charges – which were later dropped – defamed him.

Google was notified of the defamatory article in February 2016, but did not remove it until December that year. It was accessed 150 times between those months.

Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards in 2020 ruled the article had implied that Defteros crossed a line from professional lawyer for, to confidant and friend of, criminal elements and ordered he receive $40,000 in damages.


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