Defamation generally refers to a publication which is likely to injure a person’s reputation, injure them in their trade or profession, or is likely to induce others to shun, avoid, ridicule or despise them.

What does “publishing” mean?

In the modern world, defamation is increasingly occurring online.  Does that mean that anyone who publishes or shares anything online could be found responsible?

The answer is complicated and each case may be different.

A recent decision of the High Court of Australia in Google LLC v Defteros [2022] HCA 27, found that Google was not the publisher of a defamatory news article which appeared in Google’s search results.

The Age Newspaper had published an article online that was allegedly defamatory about a lawyer in Victoria.

When that lawyer searched his name in Google, The Age article about him was included in the search results.

The lawyer asked Google to remove the link but it refused to do so.

That lawyer then commenced legal proceedings against Google alleging that it was involved in publishing the original defamatory article from The Age.

The High Court was split 5-2 in its decision, but the majority of the Court said that a search result is a reference to something that is somewhere else.

The majority of the High Court also said that giving a person access to the contents of another’s webpage is not necessarily always participating in the process of publishing its contents to that person.

Great care should always be taken when making comments about others, whether that is online or elsewhere, to avoid any risk of making a defamatory statement.

If you’d like to know more about this area of the law, contact the WGC team on (07) 4046 1111.