Update on the legal action

Time to publish an update on the situation with my case against Google to get Best’s blog off the Net.

The first part of the procedure by law here when a complaint is made to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) is for the matter to first be conciliated by the Commission. However – by the cut off date of August 25, 2009 – Google failed to respond at all. On August 27 I received notification that the file had been closed for this reason and the belief that (as I indicated) they would not react unless there was a court order of some sort. Conciliation has always been a voluntary factor.

The next step by law is to have the VEOHRC refer the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal (VCAT) and their anti-discrimination list for a hearing. That has a 60 day time limit which I will be well within as the letter will be handed in to the office next Tuesday (the next time I’m in Melbourne on a weekday).

Meanwhile, I have also taken the time to make other enquiries associated with the matter. I have now confirmed that under common law – Google can’t fob off content to third parties that use their services (like Blogger) as they try to in their Terms of Service. I’ll probably need more detail than that but it’s a start, and I won’t need it for the VCAT hearing. Just the note about common law would do there.

There is also the issue of orders issued by VCAT. Because it’s a tribunal I don’t know if an order from there could be registered in the County of Santa Clara (where Google are). The Court there have been totally non co-operative with my enquiries about that, and I have just today filed a complaint with the Attorney General of California about Santa Clara’s behaviour. However – according to an enquiry I made this afternoon, it’s possible that the US doesn’t recognise any orders from Australia. That might explain that one but it’s not certain. The Californian AG will know for sure. On the other hand, once an order is issued it’s possible that Google might obey it anyway given that a tribunal with the ability to make decisions would have ruled that their content policy has been violated.

I’ll be interested to see if Google actually show up at the VCAT hearing – and if they don’t I’ll be noting their complete ignorance of the procedure thus far and seek a quick hearing immediately rather than an adjournment. I’ll go in armed with everything I have from Best’s blog that mentions me – but also other hate speech examples including those that he deleted (like the one calling for the euthanising of Autistic children), and the call for a military coup.

I’ve also been given another two angles to attack Google on. The first is privacy – re the use without my permission of my full name with the intent of Google’s search engines finding it. That goes through the Privacy Commission and I’ll follow that up soon. The second is including the issue in the efforts by the government to censor the Internet through those filters – which is a vexed issue of course. But what Best is doing is a great example of what needs to be taken down and this issue could well be worth bringing to the attention of the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy.

That’s the state of play at the moment.

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