Google ordered to pay John Barilaro $715,000 for FriendlyJordies videos

Former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has been awarded $715,000 in libel damages by the Federal Court for two YouTube videos by self-styled comedian Jordan Shanks.

Google was ordered to pay former New South Wales Deputy Premier and MP for Monaro John Barilaro $715,000 in libel damages for two YouTube videos hosted by YouTube.

The videos were uploaded by comedian Jordan Shanks, otherwise known as FriendlyJordies, to YouTube in September and October 2020. Judge Steven Rares said that in the videos, Shanks waged a “relentless and vicious campaign” that traumatized the former politician.

Significantly, the case went beyond a simple feeling of anger at having been the target of criticism. The case heard Shanks’ videos used vulgar and offensive language, portrayed Barilaro as a corrupt con man and further included racial slurs about his Italian heritage.

This is where Google comes in; Barilaro’s office reported the videos to YouTube as violating the website’s stated code of conduct policies. Still, the videos remained online.

Barilaro received a settlement from Shanks in a side case last year, but YouTube continued to host the videos.

Barilaro filed a lawsuit against Google, which initially fought the case but eventually dropped all defense actions. Google could not explain why it continued to leave the videos online with their numerous racist attacks on Barilaro, despite these having been brought to its attention.

Judge Rares said Shanks called Barilaro “disgusting names” and that although Shanks calls himself a comedian, his repeated use of insults “was not comedic”. In fact, “it was nothing less than racist hate speech.”

As for Google, Judge Rares said the company failed to take responsibility for its conduct as a publisher and found it failed to enforce its own policies designed to prevent hate speech, cyberbullying and harassment.

In fact, Judge Rares further referred Shanks and Google to the senior clerk of the court to consider suing them for serious contempt of court.

Barilaro said he felt vindicated and relieved the matter was settled. “You have to be brave or stupid to take on Google, maybe it’s a bit of both,” he said.

He also said the case was never about the money and it was just about getting an apology and having the material taken down.


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