Google appears to have found itself in yet another court battle over search results involving defamation, this time with an ongoing lawsuit in Australia and Melbourne resident Milorad "Michael" Trkulja. The suit stems from allegations that a Google search for terms relating to the "Melbourne criminal underworld" reportedly brings up images of Trkulja and his name. The lawsuit has now gone through several proceedings starting back in 2012. At the time, it was determined that Google had defamed Trkulja in the Victorian Supreme Court – a decision which was overturned in 2016 by the Victorian Court of Appeal. That second ruling was, in turn, overruled on June 13 by The High Court and subsequently ordered that the search giant pay Trkulja's legal fees. However, this case is not likely to be over with local reports expecting that it will be taken all the way back to the Victorian Supreme Court for a trial.
Google, for its part, has argued that the plaintiff's name and photos show up because of how its algorithms work. The search engine often groups together images, products, and people with similar appearances. What's more, Google's own images and those of actors or other famous individuals often show up in similar searches. The company cited appearances of its logo and images of actor Marlon Brando in searches associated with the term "criminal underworld." The claim is based on the idea that people generally understand that not everything returned from a search is going to be exactly what the user is looking for and the claim has successfully defended the company before. The court previously heard arguments that the algorithm for the company's autocomplete search feature is heavily influenced by prior searches, for example. However, Trkulja has vowed to continue pursuing the suit until the tech company removes his name and images from its search results. So there are no sure signs at this juncture that the case is coming any closer to a close.
In the meantime, the entire misunderstanding seems to stem from a 2004 incident which took place in a Melbourne restaurant. Details about that are slim and although the plaintiff doesn't appear to have criminal connections, could ultimately be part of the reason he shows up in those search results. Trkulja was reportedly dining at the unnamed establishment that year when gunfire broke out and he was shot in the back.