Australian Court Rules that News Outlets Could be Sued over Social Media Comments

The High Court of Australia ruled on Sep. 8 that Australian media outlets can be held liable for defamatory comments made by readers on their social media accounts.

The decision came after Australia’s top court rejected appeals by News Corp and Fairfax Media against an accusation of them “publishing” defamatory comments on their Facebook pages.

Dylan Voller, a juvenile offender whose cruel treatment in youth detention was exposed on TV, filed a defamation case against News Corp and Fairfax in 2017.

The media groups appealed to the court that they had no control over third-party comments on Facebook posts.

However, the High Court ruled by majority that the media groups were considered publishers of the third-party user comments.

The High Court said that liability as a publisher depends upon whether the media group had facilitated and encouraged the relevant communication.

By creating a public Facebook page and posting content, the High Court concluded that the media groups had therefore “facilitated, encouraged and thereby assisted the publication of comments from third-party Facebook users.”

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