John Barilaro’s win is a reminder for Google to take legal threats seriously, expert says

Google’s costly loss to former New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro shows the tech giant needs to start taking Australia’s defamation laws seriously, a legal expert has said.

Yesterday Google was ordered to pay Mr Barilaro more than $700,000 over ‘vulgar’ and ‘racist’ videos posted to YouTube in 2020 by comedian Jordan Shanks, better known as FriendlyJordies.

Mr Barilaro had repeatedly asked Google – which owns YouTube – to remove the videos, but the company did nothing.


The Federal Court decided to remove the normal “cap” on defamation damages – which currently stands at around $425,000 – and instead ordered $715,000 in punitive damages for Mr. Barilaro.

Although it has been established for some time in Australia that publishers are responsible for the content they host, Google has not accepted this, says Michael Douglas, a litigation lawyer and law scholar.

“Google has been working around the world to argue that it’s not responsible for things on its various platforms…and that the courts shouldn’t shoot the messenger,” said the lecturer at the University of Western Australia.

“But just because Google wants it to be, doesn’t mean the law reflects that position. »

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