Google ordered to pay damages to defamed elected official

Australia’s federal court on Monday ordered Google to pay more than 466,000 euros to an Australian politician who had been featured in comedian videos hosted on YouTube.

In 2020, John Barilaro was Deputy Premier of New South Wales when he was targeted by an Australian comedian, known as ‘friendlyjordies’. In videos posted on YouTube, he accused her of corruption by imitating her Italian accent.

In court, this former senior politician collapsed while watching one of them, shot by the comedian in a luxurious house that the elected official owned and rented on AirBnB.

“I’m traumatized by all of this,” Barilaro said as he gave his testimony in court.

At the end of 2021, he had reached an agreement with “friendlyjordies”, whose real name is Jordan Shanks.

The comedian has thus presented his apologies and agreed to modify the videos, which have been viewed more than a million times on YouTube.

Judge Steven Rares revealed YouTube owner Google was liable for enhanced harm to Mr Barilaro from December 2020, when the politician’s lawyers wrote to the US giant asking it to remove the videos offensive. The magistrate ordered Google to pay damages.

According to him, these videos caused Mr. Barilaro to leave public office prematurely — he resigned from parliament in October 2020 — “and perhaps traumatized him”.

Mr Rares also revealed that Mr Shanks “needed YouTube to spread his poison” and that Google was willing to join the comedian “to earn revenue as part of its business model”.

Google has been contacted by AFP to respond to a request for comment.

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