Today the High Court of Australia ruled that Google is not a publisher of the websites to which it links in the case, Google LLC v Defteros. The decision overturns a previous decision in which the Supreme Court of Victoria determined that Google was a publisher for linking to newspaper articles.
In its decision, the High Court explains that “a hyperlink is simply a tool which enables a person to navigate to another web page” and therefore facilitates access, but does not disseminate or publish the material. Concurring with the opinion, two of the High Court judges noted that the case did not concern material promoted by Google as part of a search result. These judges indicated that it might be a stronger case to attach liability if Google and a third party have an agreement to promote the content on the third party’s web page.
This decision is consistent with our 2021 Principles on Protecting Free Expression Online in that it affirms the importance of Type 230 protections for entities that provide access to user-generated content. Public Knowledge supports the decision.
The following can be attributed to Greg Guice, Director of Government Affairs at Public Knowledge:
“The High Court of Australia recognized what should be well understood after decades to live in an interconnected online world – facilitating access to information should not engage the responsibility of the entity facilitating this access.
“An interesting question raised in the concurring opinion, however, is whether such protection should be extended to content promoted by an agreement between the entity facilitating access to information – such as Google – and a third-party website, including including paid advertisers. Public Knowledge argued that such commercial transactions should not be covered by the protections of Section 230 because when the parties promoting the content have a financial incentive to increase the number of people who view that content, these parties should also be encouraged to take a closer look at the content they are promoting.
“This decision provides additional strength to promote a free and open Internet where a diversity of viewpoints can flourish.”
Learn more about our Section 230 Principles — designed to protect consumers’ ability to express themselves freely online — in our blog post, “Principles for Protecting Free Speech on the Internet.”
Members of the media can contact Director of Communications Shiva Stella with questions, interview requests, or to join Public Knowledge’s press list at [email protected] or 405-249-9435.