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Australian government says the media is responsible for reader's defamatory comments


By Shawn Lim, Reporter, Asia Pacific

June 2, 2020 | 3 min read

Australia has ruled that media organisations that post their own articles on social media are liable for users’ defamatory comments in the comments section of those posts.


The ruling came from a lawsuit filed by Dylan Voller against media organisations like News Corp Australia.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the ruling by the highest court in the Australian state of New South Wales, media organisations encourage and facilitate comments that can be seen by other Facebook users.

That means these organisations should be considered publishers of the comments and held responsible for their content.

The ruling came from a lawsuit filed by Dylan Voller against media organisations like News Corp Australia.

Voller, who was detained in a juvenile detention center, saw articles about him that were posted on Facebook by media organisations drew comments from other Facebook users falsely accusing him of serious crimes.

“Today’s decision means the media cannot share any story via Facebook without fear of being sued for comments which they did not publish and have no control over,” said the media companies that were defendants in the original lawsuit.

“It also creates an extraordinary situation where every public Facebook page—whether it be held by politicians, businesses, or courts—is now liable for third-party comments on those pages.”

They also argued the court’s ruling failed to acknowledge that Facebook does not give media organisations the ability to turn off comments.

That means Facebook should be held responsible for content posted by users as Facebook has the ability to moderate content, including hiding and deleting comments, argued the news organisations.

In April, the Australian government said it is working on a major agreement between digital platforms and publishers. It requires the digital ad giants to negotiate in good faith on how to pay news media for use of their content, to advise news media in advance of algorithm changes that would affect content rankings, to favour original source news content in search page results and to share data with media companies.

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