A senior Facebook executive has responded to the Federal Court’s decision to consider publishers liable for defamatory comments made in the comments on posts.
Facebook’s VP of policy solutions Richard Allan, based in London, said it is the individual that should be held responsible for any defamatory comments made.
“As a general matter we think individuals should be held responsible for the content they publish, so if an individual posts defamatory content they should be held accountable,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The primary responsibility should lie with the person who wrote and published the comment.”
It comes after Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rothman ruled media outlets will be held legally responsible for defamatory comments made on their social media pages in the Dylan Voller case.
In his ruling, Rothman suggested these publishers cannot escape the consequences of defamatory comments being made on their social media posts by “turning a blind eye to it”.
Allan described it as an “evolving area” of the law and said there may be a shared responsibility between Facebook and publishers in certain instances, but that the “primary responsibility” lies with the individual.
In a similar case in New Zealand, a court ruled that the owner of a Facebook page could be liable for defamatory comments made on the site if they knew of the comments but failed to act in a reasonable amount of time.
University of Western Australia senior lecturer in law recently said the Voller decision has “broader significance”.
“The fact that the Facebook pages of the defendants allowed them to vet comments in advance meant that they had some control over those comments,” he said.
“The defendant companies could have dedicated staff to ensure any comments were not defamatory before making them visible, but failed to do so.”
One of the media outlets involved in the case News Corp has indicated its intent to appeal the decision.
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