According to The Guardian, The Standing Council of Attorneys General has given in-principle support to reforms that could mean Australian media are not liable for third-party comments on their social media posts.
If made law, the reforms would give substantial relief to not just the media, but all Facebook administrators.
The New South Wales attorney general, Mark Speakman, said the amendments, would substantially upgrade Australia’s uniform defamation laws and would include a new innocent dissemination defence for internet intermediaries,
“The new innocent dissemination defence will be available to a person – other than an author, originator or poster of the matter – who provides or administers the online service by means of which the matter is published,” Speakman told Guardian Australia.
“This will include an individual or organisation who uses a facility on a social media platform to create and administer a public page.”
Speakman said under the new defence, a person or organisation running a Facebook page would need to receive a written complaint regarding any allegedly defamatory third-party comments before they could be held liable.
“Once the forum administrator has received a complaint, they must take reasonable steps to remove or otherwise prevent access to the matter within seven days in order to rely on the defence,” he said.
Last year, the high court said media companies could be held liable for allegedly defamatory material posted to their Facebook pages.
This was sparked by the Dylan Voller case. In 2019, ex-juvenile detainee Dylan Voller sued Fairfax Media, Nationwide News and Sky News, claiming they were responsible for defaming him via the comments made on a video of him that was posted on their Facebook pages.
The latest reforms, which would come into effect in 2024, would provide relief to media companies in Australia, many of which have turned off commenting or hired resources to filter comments.