The High Court rules pages can be held responsible for defamatory comments


THE High Court of Australia has ruled that media outlets which run Facebook pages can be held responsible for all defamatory comments published.

This new ruling means that anyone who runs a public social media page can be theoretically sued over defamatory comments by users or group members, even if the owner of the page isn’t aware of the comment.

This decision comes after a two-year-long case involving former Don Dale Youth Detention Centre inmate Dylan Voller and three media companies who published stories about Dylan following a Four Corners report.

Although the stories from these media companies were not defamatory themselves, Facebook users took to the comments on the pages of these outlets with highly defamatory remarks.

Dylan then attempted to sue the owners of the Facebook pages, rather than the commenters, centring the case around the idea the media companies could be defined as the ‘publishers’ of this content.

The High Court concluded, “The Court of Appeal was correct to hold that the acts of the appellants in facilitating, encouraging and thereby assisting the posting of the comments by the third-party Facebook users rendered them publishers of those comments.

“The appeals should be dismissed with costs.”

Although the case was centred around Facebook, the High Court’s ruling affects all social media platforms such as Twitter or Instagram, other social media and websites that have a comments section.

In other words, anyone who is responsible for managing and running a social media platform or website that invites readers, members of the public or group members to share comments will now have to actively monitor and moderate comments published across all platforms.

Measures that can be put into place to ensure that no defamatory comments are published include: disabling comments if moderation is not possible, using tools including keyword and profanity blockers or offensive comment blockers, restricting who can respond to posts.



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