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Lessons learnt from the recent High Court cases of Fairfax Media Publications Pty Ltd v Voller  HCA 27 and Google LLC v Defteros  HCA 2. Prepared by Caitlin Walkington and Richard Bradshaw.
The 2015 Supreme Court of South Australia case of Duffy v Google Inc. and the 2017 Full Court Appeal are well known amongst defamation lawyers throughout Australia as highly significant decisions. They determined that Google and other search engines can be liable as secondary publishers of defamatory material authored and/or posted by others where search results reproduce such material.
Our firm has been involved in two actions before the South Australian Supreme Court in which the Court has been prepared to make findings and orders protecting defamed plaintiffs.
Parliament has for some time been facing increased pressure from media publishers to amend Australia’s uniform defamation laws to strike the right balance between a person’s right to freedom of speech and the need to protect a person’s reputation from slander.
“Intuition suggests that the remarkable features of the Internet (which is still changing and expanding) makes it more than simply another medium of human communication. It is indeed a revolutionary leap in the distribution of information, including about the reputation of individuals.."
In the 1990s, Johnston Withers Lawyers (through former director and now special counsel Richard Bradshaw) along with Paul Heywood-Smith QC (at the time junior counsel and, prior to that, one of the Johnston Withers Lawyers’ directors) acted in a highly influential and long-running defamation case: Chakravarti v Advertiser Newspapers Ltd.