Australia blames the media for comments on its social networks

Social networks are usually not responsible for what is shared and commented on there, although they try to keep the environment on the platforms sober. However, Australia’s courts recently ruled that the media is responsible for comments on their official Facebook pages.

The Supreme Court decision was made after the majority came together.

In 2017, Dylan Voller, a 24-year-old Australian resident known to be detained in a juvenile detention center, filed a defamation lawsuit against some media outlets. The action against the Der Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Central attorney, Sky News Australien and The Bolt Report was created following third-party comments on their official Facebook pages.

According to the Associated Press, these comments, which the young man believes were defamatory, were published in media containing the news mentioning Voller.

Despite the intent, the case in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia, has been suspended as it is not yet clear whether the media is responsible for user comments on their official Facebook pages.

Dylan Voller, the 24 year old, resident in Australia

Dylan Voller, the 24 year old Australian who is suing the media.

Australia's Supreme Court holds media accountable

Now the Australian Supreme Court has ruled that the media are the "publishers" of the allegedly defamatory comments from third parties on their Facebook pages. With a majority decision, the court found that companies had participated in the communication by enabling and encouraging comments.

In defense, some of Australia's largest media outlets (Fairfax Media Publications, Nationwide News and the Australian News Channel) have warned that in order to be "editors" people must know the content of the comments and intend to send them.

Likewise, Nine, the new owner of The Sydney Morning Herald, and News Corp Australia, owner of two programs and two - of three - sued newspapers, have called for a review or amendment of the law.

[A decisão foi] Of concern to anyone who maintains a public page on social media and finds that they can be held responsible for comments made by others on their page, even if they are unaware of those comments.

"This underscores the need for urgent law reform and calls on the Australian Attorneys General to address this anomaly and harmonize Australian law with comparable Western democracies," said Michael Miller, Executive Chairman of News Corp Australia.

In a statement, Nine complained that the decision "will have an impact on what we can post on social media in the future."

Voller's lawyers, on the other hand, believe that “this decision puts responsibility where it should be”. This is because companies responsible for social media have the resources to monitor user comments and be aware of circumstances where defamatory comments are predictable.

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