Australian High Court Rules Google is not a Publisher

Google won a high court battle in Australia over a defamation case accusing it of providing a hyperlink to an alleged defamatory news article.  

“In reality, a hyperlink is merely a tool which enables a person to navigate to another webpage,” Chief Justice Susan Kiefel and Justice Jacqueline Gleeson said

On Wednesday, most of the high court justices found Google not guilty of publishing the Age defamatory article about a Victorian lawyer, and that it only provided hyperlinks to such content. 

In 2021, Google appealed the case to the high court after Victoria’s court of appeal refused its attempts to overturn defamation in favor of George Defteros, a lawyer for underworld figures. 

According to the Victorian court, Google was the publisher of a defamatory article because its “search results were instrumental in communicating the content to readers.” 

However, Google argued that “providing a hyperlink to a story did not amount to publication and it, therefore, could not be liable for any defamatory material contained in the story.” 

“There was no other basis for finding publication because the appellant [Google] had not participated in the writing or disseminating of the defamatory matter,” the high court judgment summary said, rejecting Defteros’ claim that search results “enticed” the person to open the website. 

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