A Brisbane businessman believes he is the first in the world to sue all three global online search engine giants in defamation claims worth more than $4 million.
Jarrod Sierocki has filed fresh lawsuits against Microsoft and Yahoo as part of his bid to wipe false slurs from internet searches of his name.
His claims in the Queensland Supreme Court are in addition to his ongoing suit against Google, which he lodged before winning a record damages award in 2015 in the same court against a disgruntled former business partner who defamed him on US site, ripoffreport.com.
Mr Sierocki told the ABC he was not interested in the money but in forcing the search engines to remove links to the defamatory web pages in line with a permanent injunction from the earlier court ruling.
“We’ve got orders from the court, why don’t they just pull it down?” He said.
“Google, come on. Microsoft, Yahoo, what are you guys doing?
“You know it’s false, you know it’s a lie. Why are you continuing to publish it?”
Mr Sierocki, who is the managing director of Insolvency Guardian, said he had not received a cent from the former business partner who had gone bankrupt.
The controversial ripoffreport.com had ignored the Supreme Court’s ruling that its site falsely claimed he was dishonest and involved in scamming clients, and a permanent injunction placed on the material.
“My children are just becoming old enough to be able to jump onto Google. What’s going to come up? That is an absolute travesty and I’m just dreading the day,” he said.
Mr Sierocki said he was buoyed by two recent court rulings against Google.
High Court upheld right to sue over gangster link
Last October, the South Australian Supreme Court found search engines were publishers liable for defamatory content, while the High Court of Australia last month upheld a Melbourne shooting victim’s right to sue over Google results linking his name to gangsters.
“However, there has been nobody that I’m aware of — or my lawyers are aware of — who has sued all three internet giants,” Mr Sierocki said.
“Moving forward, it’s not just about those guys. It’s also about the people who hold themselves above that in the United States or wherever they want to hide, and these keyboard warriors who think that they can go around and type things without any sort of repercussions whatsoever.
Mr Sierocki said he understood that few could afford to take on multinational corporations in court, but he hoped that by doing so he would help other Australians being falsely attacked online.
“We’ve been in the ring for six years and I’m never giving up. I think they picked the wrong horse,” he said.
In court papers, Mr Sierocki’s claim states that Microsoft-owned Bing.com and Yahoo sites, owned by US-based Oath Inc and Seven West Media, had ignored his requests from October 2016 to remove links to the slurs.
“If our courts make a decision that something is false, it’s defamatory and give you injunctive relief and you send that to these companies, they should remove that,” he told the ABC.
Each claim, filed on July 4, seeks $1.75 million in damages for non-economic loss and aggravated damages for defamation.
Mr Sierocki said he would donate any damages awarded to an online bullying charity.
Queensland University of Technology internet law expert Nicolas Suzor said laws around online defamation were “pretty messy at the moment” and needed cleaning up.
He said there were contrary rulings across Australia about whether or not search engines were responsible for removing libellous content and it was still up individuals to press their cases.
“In defamation, the volume of complaints is still low enough that my understanding is it’s still handled on a case by case basis,” he said.
Associate Professor Suzor said there was a public interest in search engines not being the judges of whether or not an allegation was true.
Court rulings made it more likely they would act but sometimes they would remove obviously defamatory material without them, he said.
Microsoft and Seven West Media declined to comment.
Google is defending the defamation suit and has previously declined requests for comment.