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Privacy v Anonymity.

Editorial Staff

An Australian Court is the latest to say that a US headquartered company cannot refuse to produce information as to users who post defamatory statements. This time it's Google's "Blogger" / "Blogspot" service.

Shane Radbone is a former Australian Rules sportsman and an executive with the Australian holder of the global 7-Eleven franchise. And he is also a victim of a vicious attack by person or persons unknown who post material to the "Blogspot" website operated by Blogger.Com, a Google company.

The material, at shaneshaneradbone.blogspot.com is at best a major insult and at worst utterly defamatory: a headline posted in May 2012, and still accessible via both Blogspot and Google's own search engine (where it is listed as the top response to a search for Radbone's name - see graphic) contains worrisome wording. The graphic also shows that Google, inexplicably, also provides an automated highlight of the alleged defamation.

Radbone has been trying to get Google to disclose the identity of the blogger but Google has argued (as does Amazon.Com in similar circumstances) that its policy is to protect the identity of even those whose content is defamatory. They appear to hide behind a contorted interpretation of the US Constitution arguing that all speech is free and that privacy is an essential part of that freedom.

The rest of the world, increasingly, does not agree.

Both Google and Yahoo! have been ordered, in Australia, to pay damages to victims of defamation where the victims have requested that defamatory comments be removed from search engine results. In the light of that, and given that Radbone issued proceedings against the Google subsidiary more than a month ago, the search results shown in the graphic are remarkable and, seemingly, demonstrate the continued attitude of US headquartered companies to local laws in the countries where they operate.

Even more remarkable is that, as the graphic shows, Radbone's own Blogspot presence (shaneradbone.blogspot.com) comes below the result for the offending and offensive content.

The fake website even (falsely) claims that the content is posted by "Shane Radbone," Worse, the user of that site posts material in Radbone's name attacking others, both individuals and companies.

Whether the comments about Radbone are proved to be libellous remains to be seen: they are certainly vitriolic.

And an Australian Court agrees that a person who makes such comments cannot hide behind an American company's interpretation of cherry-picked laws. Google has been ordered to release, within 28 days, the identity of the blogger behind the offending web content.