The Australian Court has ordered Google to pay a politician a sum of 715,000 Australian dollars ($515,000) as defamation damages over two videos posted on YouTube. The Federal Court of Australia on Monday found that the two videos drove John Barilaro, the deputy premier of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, to quit politics.
The judge said, “The videos questioned the former legislator’s integrity, including labelling him “corrupt” without evidence, and called him racist names that were “nothing less than hate speech.”
Judge Steven Rares said the videos, which were posted by political commentator Jordan Shanks, amounted to a “relentless, racist, vilification, abusive and defamatory campaign” against Barilaro.
It was found by him that Alphabet Inc’s Google, which owns content-sharing website YouTube, earned thousands of dollars by hosting the two videos but has failed to apply its own policies to prevent hate speech, harassment, and cyberbullying.
There are nearly 800,000 views of the videos between them since they were posted in late 2020.
“When Barilaro quit politics in October 2021, it was because he was traumatised by Google’s and Mr Shanks’ campaign and … it caused him to leave public office prematurely.”
“I found Google’s conduct in this proceeding to be improper and unjustifiable.”
A Google spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Initially, the company defended its conduct, but later it withdrew all defences and admitted that the videos did defame Barilaro, according to the Australian Associated Press news agency.
A spokesperson for Shanks, who was a co-defendant with Google until he and Barilaro reached a settlement last year, was not immediately available for comment.
Shanks, who uses the name Friendlyjordies on YouTube, agreed in November 2021 to pay a sum of 100,000 Australian dollars ($72,000) to Barilaro and accepted in court that some of his videos were offensive to the former legislator.
Shanks also apologised for the hurt he caused to Barilaro.
Outside the Federal Court of Australia on Monday, Barilaro told the local media that he felt vindicated and that he was happy to have reached the “end of the journey”.
“You’ve got to be either courageous or stupid to take on Google. Maybe it’s a bit of both.” he was quoted as saying by the ABC broadcaster.
Barilaro said all he wanted was an apology, and that was why he had settled with Shanks. He said,
“It was never about money. It was about an apology and removal.”