How Facebook comments have companies facing defamation liability

Date: Jul 08, 2020

They say once something goes on the internet, it never disappears – no matter how quickly you press the delete button. This may be the case for a few Australian media companies that learned the hard way, facing defamation liability for comments left under their news stories on Facebook.

The original case

An appeal from several Australian media companies that surfaced in 2019 held them liable for responses that were left on their own Facebook news stories was recently dismissed. The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Centralian Advocate, Sky News Australia and The Bolt Report were sued by Indigenous Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller after responses of defamation appeared on the news stories of his mistreatment at the Don Dale youth detention centre in 2016.

The NSW supreme court found that the companies should be held responsible for the comments, even though they weren't the ones who originally posted them. The decision stated that these companies had enough control over the comments to be able to delete them in a timely manner before they made such a statement.

"They facilitated the posting of comments on articles published in their newspapers and had sufficient control over the platform to be able to delete postings when they became aware that they were defamatory," said judge John Basten, according to The Guardian.

In closing the case, the federal government decided to make social media platforms liable for all information posted on their pages, including comments from third parties.

How GMP helps with public liability cases

Media companies are held to a certain standard when they put information out for the general public to see, especially since they're the reporters. In this instance, the media companies cannot turn off their comments, but they can in fact filter certain words to catch defamatory statements in advance. This may reduce chances for engagement, but neglecting to do so can bring up more cases of liability defamation and remind readers of instances like this in the past, which could potentially tarnish the reputation of the company involved.

If you've recently experienced a similar situation or general public liability incident, you have up to three years to make a claim. For more information, contact the lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners for a free over-the-phone consultation at 1800 004 878 today.

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