Search engine results - whether defamatory to the ordinary, reasonable person

The High Court held recently (Trkulja v Google LLC [2018] HCA 25) that the Victorian Court of Appeal was wrong to dismiss summarily a case in which a Victorian man was linked in Google searches which implied he was a serious criminal. The trial had been ordered to proceed by the trial judge. By contrast, the Court of Appeal held there was no prospect of establishing the search results were defamatory.
The High Court held that the only real question was whether the search results were capable of being held to be defamatory to the ordinary, reasonable person. In doing so, the High Court emphasised that “ordinary men and women have different temperaments and outlooks, degrees of education and life experience”. It held that a reasonable person can view a publication casually and can also be prone to a degree of loose thinking. The Court of Appeal was held to have fallen into error because it assessed the case based on what experienced legal practitioners considered to be defamatory.

Nigel Wilson