An Australian court ruled Monday that Google must pay a former lawmaker $515,000 over the company's failure to remove a "relentless, racist, vilificatory, abusive and defamatory campaign" of YouTube videos that forced him out of politics.
The Federal Court determined the Alphabet Inc. company, which owns YouTube, profited from showing two videos targeting the then-deputy premier of New South Wales. The videos have been viewed nearly 800,000 times since they were posted in late 2020.
A review of defamation law in Australia is evaluating whether companies should be held liable for defamatory content on their platforms. Technology giants say they should not be expected to moderate every post.
Content creator Jordan Shanks uploaded videos repeatedly calling lawmaker John Barilaro "corrupt" without providing credible evidence, and attacked him for his Italian heritage, which the judge concluded was "nothing less than hate speech."
The judge said Google violated its own policies of protecting public figures from unfair attacks and "drove Mr. Barilaro prematurely from his chosen service in public life and traumatized him significantly" by allowing the videos to be published.
Barilaro left politics a year after Shanks posted the videos online, and "Google cannot escape its liability for the substantial damage that Mr. Shanks' campaign caused," the judge said.
Shanks was a co-defendant until he reached a settlement with Barilaro last year that included the YouTuber having to edit the videos and pay the former Australian lawmaker more than $70,000.
But the judge said Shanks "needed YouTube to disseminate his poison (and) Google was willing to join Mr. Shanks in doing so to earn revenue as part of its business model."
The YouTuber mockingly wrote in a Facebook post after Monday's ruling that Barilaro "finally scored the coin from Google... without ever having the truth tested in court."
Barilaro "withdrew (his) action against us so we wouldn't testify or present our evidence," Shanks wrote.
The ex-politician told reporters outside the courthouse that he felt "cleared and vindicated".
"It was never about money," Barilaro said. "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."
Reuters contributed to this report.