Google has been ordered to pay an Australian politician damages of A$715,000 (£410,000) for refusing to remove “relentless, racist, vilificatory, abusive and defamatory” videos on YouTube.
The ruling is the latest in a series of legal judgments and government initiatives in Australia that have attempted to hold social media companies responsible for their content of their users.
Unlike in the US, UK and the European Union, Australian laws make online platforms bear the same legal responsibility as publishers for the content that they host.
John Barilaro, the former deputy premier of New South Wales – the country’s most populous state, and home of Sydney – said the abusive YouTube videos drove him out of politics.
On Monday, Australia’s Federal Court found that Google-owned YouTube had intentionally profited from two videos that had been viewed nearly 800,000 times since being posted in 2020.
Judge Steve Rares said the videos – which attacked Mr Barilaro’s Italian heritage, as well as alleged without evidence that he was “corrupt” – amounted to “nothing less than hate speech”.
Judge Rares said that Google was breach of its own policies aimed at protecting public figures and in being so “drove Mr Barilaro prematurely from his chosen service in public life and traumatised him significantly”.
The content creator Jordan Shanks, who posts videos under the name Friendly Jordies, has 625,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel and 346,000 followers on Facebook.
Shanks was initially a co-defendant in the case until he reached a A$100,000 (£57k) settlement with the politician last year. The settlement also included him editing some of his videos about Mr Barilaro.
“Google cannot escape its liability for the substantial damage that Mr Shanks’ campaign caused,” said Judge Rares.
Mr Barilaro told reporters outside of the courthouse that he felt “cleared and vindicated” by the judgment.
“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,” reported Reuters.
A spokesperson for Google was not available for comment.