A big hole has been punctured in Google's usual defence against libel, with an Australian court throwing out the search giant's argument that it's just a listing tool. All because it didn't remove a link to an incorrect web site.

The Australian case covers a chap called Milorad Trkulja, who asked a web site to remove content believed to be libellous regarding false allegations of local organised involvement, also requesting Google remove all links to it from its search results. It was at this point that the Australian court found Google guilty of libel, after the search giant refused to remove links to the offending article.

Google's been fined the equivalent of $200,000 for the infringement, but is appealing the decision. The Australian judge seems to be a little sympathetic toward Google's argument, explaining in the verdict that it was the jury's decision to find it guilty, because...

The jury were entitled to conclude that Google Inc intended to publish the material that its automated systems produced, because that was what they were designed to do upon a search request being typed into one of Google Inc’s search products. In that sense, Google Inc is like the newsagent that sells a newspaper containing a defamatory article. While there might be no specific intention to publish defamatory material, there is a relevant intention by the newsagent to publish the newspaper for the purposes of the law of defamation.

So Google's not the newspaper, just the automated newsagent. But is still guilty anyway because it developed the software to work that way. A pretty worrying new way of looking at Google's indexing of the web. [Supreme Court of Victoria via Mashable]