Australian music promoter Milorad "Michael" Trkulja is suing Google in a bid to have his name essentially erased from the internet after the search engine continues to link him unfairly to Melbourne's criminal underworld.
The self-described "Yugoslavian" community leader says he has taken legal action against the "evil" internet giant because Google has not blocked access to the material despite his win in a defamation lawsuit last year.
"I don't have any criminal record but my picture is still there next to those underworld people," Trkulja told Fairfax Media. "Even if you're an angel, people will think there's smoke or fire there."
"Fining Google US$200,000 is like charging you or me 20 cents. This time I want them to remove my name from Google."
Trkulja came to public attention in 2004 when he was shot in the back by an balaclava-wearing assailant while eating Sunday lunch with his mother in a St Albans restaurant. He narrowly avoided being shot a second time because the gun jammed.
The attack came in the midst of Melbourne's gangland war and when Trkulja's name was subsequently typed into Google, his photo appeared alongside underworld figures such as drug kingpin Tony Mokbel.
When Google repeatedly refused to remove links to the images, Trkulja successfully sued the internet giant for defamation and received US$200,000 in damages in 2012. That followed an earlier legal victory against Yahoo where he was awarded US$225,000.
But Trkulja's latest defamation lawsuit claims his reputation is still being "gravely injured" by continuing to be linked to the underworld via Google's image search and autocomplete functions.
In a 20-page print out tendered to the Supreme court, Trkulja claims his photo appears alongside Tony Mokbel, gangland identity Mick Gatto, and Moran crime family matriarch Judy Moran under search terms such as "Melbourne underworld criminals photos".
"The Google Web matter is defamatory and in its true innuendo carries the defamatory imputations [that Trkulja] is a hardened and serious criminal in Melbourne, in the same league as late [drug kingpin] Carl Williams, [hitman] Andrew "Benji" Veniamin, Tony Mokbel murderer and drug trafficker," the claim stated.
Trkulja decided to launch the latest lawsuit after Google's legal department declined to take any action to block access to the photos despite his 2012 court win.
"Google says 'do no evil' but they are the biggest evil," he said.
Trkulja has petitioned the Supreme Court to grant a permanent injunction that would remove his name from Google's servers and any links to the images or other online materials. He is also seeking US$355,000 in damages.
An injunction may prevent Google from linking to the materials in search results but the original images and webpages would continue to exist on the internet and be acccessible directly or through other search engines, industry sources say.
A spokeswoman for Google declined to comment.
- The Age