Some of Australia’s biggest media companies have lost a bid in the high court to escape liability for defamatory third-party comments on their social media posts.
The High Court on Wednesday dismissed an argument by some of Australia’s largest media organisations – Fairfax Media Publications, Nationwide News, and Australian News Channel – that for people to be publishers, they must be aware of the defamatory content and intend to convey it.
The court found in a 5-2 majority decision that by facilitating and encouraging Facebook users to comment, the companies had participated in their communication.
News Corp Australia, which owns the two broadcast programmes and two of the three newspapers targeted in the defamation case, called for the law to be changed.
The ruling was ‘significant for anyone who maintains a public social media page by finding they can be liable for comments posted by others on that page even when they are unaware of those comments,’ News Corp Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said in a statement.
‘This highlights the need for urgent legislative reform and I call on Australia’s attorneys general to address this anomaly and bring Australian law into line with comparable western democracies,’ Miller added.
Nine, the new owner of The Sydney Morning Herald, said it hoped a current review of defamation laws by Australian state and territory governments would take into account the ruling and its consequences for publishers.
‘We are obviously disappointed with the outcome of that decision, as it will have ramifications for what we can post on social media in the future,’ a Nine statement said.
‘We also note the positive steps which the likes of Facebook have taken since the Voller case first started which now allow publishers to switch off comments on stories,’ Nine added.
Source: Daily mail