Australian court rules media liable for readers’ Facebook comments


SYDNEY – Australia’s top court has upheld a landmark defamation decision which found media companies were “publishers” of third-party posts on their Facebook pages, making them liable for their audience’s defamatory statements.

The High Court of Australia in a Wednesday (8) judgment dismissed an appeal by some of the country’s biggest media outlets, including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian.

Former Northern Territory detainee Dylan Voller sued the media companies in the New South Wales Supreme Court over comments posted by others on their Facebook pages.

But the case was stalled by a dispute over whether the outlets were the publishers of the comments, which Voller claims defamed him, according to local media.

The High Court said that the companies argued that they “merely administered a public Facebook page on which third parties published material,” submitting to the Court of Appeal that they “were more closely equivalent to the supplier of paper to a newspaper owner.”

However, the High Court agreed with the Court of Appeal, saying that the companies’ acts in “facilitating, encouraging and thereby assisting the posting of comments” by Facebook users “rendered them publishers of those comments.”

The court ruled that the appeals “should be dismissed with costs.”



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