Google fined $515,000 for defamatory YouTube videos

An Australian court has ordered Google to pay a former lawmaker, John Barilo $515,000 for putting out a video that drove the politician out of politics.

Describing the video as relentless, racist, abusive and defamatory, the court found that the tech company intentionally made money by not removing the two videos attacking the then-deputy premier of New South Wales.

The video was posted by Jordan Shanks and has since gathered nearly 800,000 views since it was first posted in 2020.

What you should know

  • While Google denied the videos carried defamatory imputations, it said that the YouTuber who had uploaded the video has the right to an honestly held opinion adding that he should be protected by the right to criticize a politician.
  • Meanwhile, the courts point out that Shank repeatedly brands the lawmaker corrupt without citing credible evidence as well as attacking his Italian heritage.
  • Notably, Shanks was a co-defendant until a settlement with Barilaro last year which involved the YouTuber editing the videos and paying the former politician A$100,000.

What they are saying

The judge, Steve Rares noted that the action of the YouTuber amounts to nothing less than hate speech adding that Google breached its own policies aimed at protecting public figures from being unfairly targeted, and drove Mr Barilaro prematurely from his chosen service in public life and traumatised him significantly.

“Barilaro quit politics a year after Shanks posted the videos, and Google cannot escape its liability for the substantial damage that Mr Shanks campaign caused.

The judge however added that YouTube aided Shank to disseminate his poison as Google was willing to join Shanks in doing so to earn revenue as part of its business model

Meanwhile, Barilaro said he felt cleared and vindicated about the rule. “It was never about money. It was about an apology, removal. Of course, now an apology is worthless after the campaign has continued. It’s taken a court to force Google’s hand,” he said.

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