Friday, November 16, 2012
Have you Googled yourself lately?
After a Melbourne man won compensation from Google for being defamed in its search results, Newcastle Herald reporter Greg Ray decided to find out what happened when he searched his name
Greg does however appear to have overlooked that the man who won against Google did so because Google ignored a request from him, not because of the initial listing
Googling your own name used to be mocked as a vanity thing. Or maybe a paranoia thing.
But perhaps after some recent court wins by an Aussie bloke against two search engine giants, self-Googling might become a lot more popular and interesting.
You may have read about it. Milorad (Michael) Trkulja was unlucky enough to have been shot in a Melbourne restaurant in 2004.
The crime was never solved, although Mr Trkulja has been quoted saying he believes he knows who tried to shoot him.
The story of the shooting was reported in the Melbourne Herald Sun, and scans of the newspaper article were posted on a variety of websites devoted to Melbourne crime.
Those scans apparently popped up – complete with Trkulja's name and picture – when people searched Yahoo and Google.
Trkulja, a music promoter described by the Herald Sun as "a colourful identity", felt that so many people were seeing his picture online alongside those of various gangland identities that his reputation was suffering.
So he sued both Google and Yahoo for defamation, and won a couple of hundred thousand dollars from each.
The search engines argued that it wasn't their fault. They just found stuff that other people had produced.
But the court put them in the same category as a newsagent, say, that distributed papers and magazines. Such shops could be liable for defamation, so search engines could too.
Up until now, search engines have been able to put responsibility for defamatory content back on the providers of that content.
But cases and judgments are starting to mount up. Former German first lady Bettina Wulff sued Google because the words “prostitute” and “escort” used to appear as suggestions next to her name on searches. And a Japanese man won an action against Google because the “autocomplete” feature linked his name to crimes he didn't commit.
After the Trkulja case I imagine people all over the world will be doing online searches on their own names, just in case. I did one, just to see.
I don't think I can sue Google on the basis that people might think that I am the well-known racing car champ Greg Ray. Or a comedian of the same name.
But when I do an image search and find a couple of mug-shots of criminals with the same name as me I might be getting warmer.
So, how will all this affect the internet? Will actual, real crooks be able to scare search engines into deleting search references to them? Would that be a good thing?
I still get emails from people who can read, online, old articles I wrote in the Newcastle Herald about legendary cancer con-man Paul Perrett, and many of them tell me those archived articles have made them cautious about dealing with him.
Perrett, twice jailed for fraud and robbery, ripped off scores of people with fake cancer cures and fooled hundreds with fanciful tales of his alleged university qualifications.
He lives outside the Hunter now, but I still get calls from people telling me they've met him and heard the latest versions of his astounding stories and interesting investment ideas.
Could Perrett demand that the stories about him be struck from search results, preventing people from finding out about his murky past and being put on their guard?
And will it go further than defamation?
Newsagencies have been found liable in the past for distributing offensive material such as illegal pornography.
Would search engines be liable if they directed people to websites containing illegal material?
Seems to me that either the law or the internet is going to have to change.
I am no relation of Greg Ray (above) as far as I know -- though I have thousands of relatives so you never know. But I am sure he is a very fine fellow.
I decided to do as he recommends and Googled myself as: "John Ray". I found I was third on the list after a 17th century naturalist and a fashion wholesaler! My Dissecting Leftism and Greenie Watch blogs were both there towards the top of the page. A little more surprising was that on the second page of results there appeared an entry on my personal blog that I had put up only an hour earlier. And nothing adverse at all. The occasional Leftist abuse of me must be well back in the search results
So I can say anything I like about myself and that is what people will read. Amusing!
Australia's largest fishery to be wiped out
It's been fished for a couple of hundred years and is still there -- but you would never know that listening to the Greenies
THE commercial fishing industry fears a $100 million assistance package will not be enough to compensate people affected by the proclamation of the world's biggest network of marine reserves.
More than 2.3 million square kilometres of ocean environment around Australia will be protected from July 2014.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke says the government recognises there will be impacts on some fishers which is why $100 million is being allocated under a fisheries adjustment assistance package.
Furious commercial fishers and charter operators say the move will doom their trade and end in a skyrocketing price and more imported seafood for consumers.
The Commonwealth Fisheries Association, which represents the interests of commercial fishers, is concerned compensation is being capped.
However, Protect Our Coral Sea and marine conservation groups such as the Pew Foundation welcomed the proclamation as "one of the most significant" in the nation's conservation history.
Under the plan, no new "on-the-water" changes will come into effect until July 2014 after the next federal election, after which the Coalition has promised to revoke any declaration should it win government.
Veteran Nationals senator Ron Boswell, a fierce opponent of the marine reserves, said the $100 million allocation would not go far enough. "There is going to be a lot of people put out of business with no compensation."
Mr Burke dismissed the criticism, saying people needed to know the parameters of any assistance. "You can't have an open-ended bottomless pit," he said.
The average recreational angler in a runabout is unlikely to be affected with the closest new "no-go zones" 440km out from Brisbane, 330km from Townsville, and 210km from Cairns.
Commercial operators in the Coral Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria including tuna long-liners and prawn trawlers out of Mooloolaba, Cairns and Karumba, will negotiate over a $100 million fisheries adjustment package.
"Australia is a world leader when it comes to protecting our oceans," Mr Burke said. "And so we should be, we've got responsibility for more of the ocean than almost any other country on Earth.
"Many of the world's endangered marine animals, including green turtle, blue whale, southern right whale, Australian sea lion and the whale shark, are found in these protected waters," Mr Burke said.
Most of 80,000 submissions supported the national marine network plan - that will cover an area roughly equal to Australia's land mass, he said.
Catch-and-release fishing practised by the marlin fishing game boats will still be allowed in the Coral Sea except in the designated green zone over the eastern half of the proposed marine park.
Outraged third-generation aquarium collector Lyall Squire Jr, of Cairns Marine, said the decision had the potential to put his family-owned $6 million-a-year company out of business.
"We have grave fears for our survival, worse, this is not about science," said the director of Australia's largest aquarium supplier, who exports species such as clown fish, sharks and rays to Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the US.
Flight attendant awarded compensation for injuries sustained on day off
Individual responsibility takes another hit. Qantas was in no position to supervise the guy in his day off
A QANTAS flight attendant has won a legal case that could affect hundreds of airline employees and other workers who are injured while travelling for job-related reasons on days off.
John Kennerley was injured on March 10, 2010, after setting off from his Gold Coast home to spend the night in Brisbane, the day before he was due to fly to Sydney to renew his US visa.
Queensland's Industrial Court President David Hall last month ruled Mr Kennerley's traffic accident injuries were suffered in the course of his employment, even though he was on a day off.
Qantas required Mr Kennerley to renew his visa in his own time, it had booked his 8.45am consulate appointment and had paid for his 5am flight to Sydney on March 11, 2010, the court heard.
The airline's insurer, Qantas Airways Ltd, originally rejected his worker's compensation claim, and there were subsequent appeals to Q-Comp and the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
But on October 18, the Industrial Court president found that Mr Kennerley's employment was "a significant contributing factor" to his injuries and he was entitled to compensation.
"It was the nature and terms of his employment together with decisions and initiatives of Qantas which caused Mr Kennerley to be riding his motorbike where and when he was injured," Mr Hall said.
The Industrial Court heard because he had such an early flight to his Sydney consulate appointment, Mr Kennerley decided to travel the day before and stay overnight with a friend in Brisbane.
While Qantas Airways Ltd tried to argue that he was spending the night with a Brisbane friend for social reasons, this was rejected by Mr Hall.
Mr Kennerley said he was unable to travel by train in time to meet his flight on March 11 and felt it was unsafe to make an early morning motorcycle journey to Brisbane in the dark.
Mr Kennerley's lawyer, Greg Black of Turner Freeman, said the decision was significant for hundreds of Queensland flight attendants and the Flight Attendants' Association had supported Mr Kennerley's appeal.
Mr Black said it also could protect "fly-in, fly-out" workers and other workers whose employers required them to travel in their own time to renew work-related licences or visas or meet job conditions.
Jail time for Vic hoons
DRIVERS who spark police pursuits in Victoria will soon face up to three years' jail. Police Minister Peter Ryan will introduce legislation to crack down on hoon drivers into parliament on Thursday.
Under the changes, drivers who prompt police pursuits can be jailed for up to three years and have their licence cancelled for at least 12 months. There is no mandatory minimum term as that will be left for the courts to decide.
Mr Ryan said the government was determined to crack down on drivers who spark pursuits, which place police and the community at risk. "You cannot have people breaking the law with impunity and doing a runner and expect that they can just get away with it," he told reporters.
There were more than 720 police pursuits in 2011.
Price controls have 'not protected consumers'
The NSW government’s pricing regulator IPART has thrown its weight behind moves to remove all price controls on electricity by arguing that controls have not protected households from hefty price rises in recent years.
"Retail price regulation has not protected consumers from electricity price shocks," the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal chairman, Dr Peter Boxall said.
"A well-functioning retail market - in which there is competitive rivalry between electricity retailers - is the best way to ensure that ... electricity prices are driven towards the efficient cost of retail supply."
Electricity prices for those still on government-regulated pricing contracts, which make up for around half of all consumers in NSW, have risen sharply in recent years, with rises averaging around 20 per cent taking effect from July 1.
Studies are underway to assess the extent of competition in the NSW market, although price controls are expected to remain in place until at least after the next state election, which is due to be held in early 2015. IPART is to review prices with the aim of setting thresholds for the period 2013-2016.
Even though the NSW government is committed to holding price rises to less than the level of inflation, recent rises in the cost of renewable energy, most notably the Federal government’s small scale renewable energy scheme, is expected to result in most retailers pushing for higher prices.