Who’s To Blame? The Ins And Outs Of Social Media Defamation

Hands pointing fingers at each other. Blame concept.

Facebook and the NSW Federal Court don’t see eye-to-eye on who is responsible for defamatory comments made on the platform.

Last week the court ruled Australian media giants News Corp and Nine would be held responsible for defamatory comments made on their Facebook pages last year concerning former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller.

In response, Facebook senior executive Richard Allan said responsibility should lie with the individual who makes the comment.

It’s an issue that has sparked debate around content moderation and poses the question: who is responsible for defamatory comments made on digital platforms?

Much of the court’s ruling against the media outlets rested on the fact these companies use social media platforms for commercial means, while Facebook and Allan argue “primary responsibility” lies with the person making the comment.

Social media expert and founder of Pepper IT Ryan Shelley, who put together a report for the court, can see both sides.

“For business, it is a stern reminder that you may be held responsible for what you publish – or allow to be published – on social media,” Shelley told B&T.

“You should at the very least have procedures in place where you are making an effort to monitor and possibly hide or delete any inappropriate content posted by others.”

In his initial report for the case, Shelley said the likes of Nine and News Corp have “significant available resources” to monitor the comments in their social media posts, however, this is not the case for everyone.

Evidence suggests Australia’s community managers – those who are often accountable for monitoring social media posts – find it difficult to connect with platform providers like Facebook.

In a recent survey, just 13 per cent of community managers said it is easy to communicate with a platform when there is a problem.

This is coupled with an industry-wide sense of underappreciation, with only 22 per cent of community professionals reporting their role is understood and valued by their organisation.

Facebook itself has a responsibility to monitor content posted on the platform in certain cases according to Allan.

However, this can be difficult, said Shelley.

“Due to the vast amounts of information, it would be technically difficult for a platform like Facebook to monitor all content,” he said.

“While they may be actively monitoring for specific keywords at specific times, they largely rely on users to report content.”

Hold individuals accountable

“For individuals, it’s a reminder that there could be consequences for your online posts,” Shelley said. “Take a moment and consider whether you would want your post read aloud in court.”

But this approach can also be problematic.

Fake profiles can be set up with relative ease on Facebook, while one needs to only scan Twitter to see the vast number of active anonymous accounts.

“Identifying the true owner of a deliberately faked social account can be challenging,” said Shelley.

“It’s relatively easy for a would-be fake to create a throwaway email account, and then set up a social account using that fake email.”

As Shelley points out, there are ways for authorities to trace fake accounts in such cases, however even here “a savvy user could also further obscure their identity by routing their web traffic via a VPN.”

There is every likelihood the court’s decision will be appealed, meaning the final outcome remains unknown.

In the meantime, it seems both individuals and businesses must stay diligent online.

Please login with linkedin to comment

defamation Facebook Social Media

Latest News

Bangkok Thailand - August 31 2017 Facebook App on iPhone with computer laptop background closeup male hand hold social network on smart device concept.
  • Media
  • Opinion

Young Australians Will Abandon Facebook If It Doesn’t Do More To Combat Hate Speech

In this guest post, founders of The Daily Aus Sam Koslowski and Zara Seidler discuss why in order to stay in the game and keep its user, social media giant Facebook needs to do more to combat hate speech… For young Australians, Facebook is on the decline. Unless the platform better responds to its user’s […]


by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Baskin-Robbins Australia Awarded For Stranger Things Campaign
  • Media

Baskin-Robbins Australia Awarded For Stranger Things Campaign

A brave move has paid dividends for Baskin-Robbins Australia who recently announced they won the award for Best Digital Initiative at last week’s QSR Media Awards. Baskin-Robbins Australia’s Master Licensee, Palm Oasis Ventures took a risk in launching a digital winter campaign targeting a new millennial and Gen Z demographic when it partnered with Netflix to launch season 3 of the streaming giant’s most popular show, the sci-fi horror series, Stranger Things.

TikTok Turns On Trump (Again)
  • Media

TikTok Turns On Trump (Again)

TikTok has turned on Trump once again. As yet, no one brave enough to speculate it's the work of the Chinese government.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA JULY 1, 2018: Entrance to Adobe San Francisco office location in historic Baker and Hamilton warehouse
  • Media

Convert Digital Awarded Adobe’s Magento Gold Status

Leading eCommerce website development agency, Convert Digital, has achieved the coveted Magento Gold Status from Adobe. This accomplishment has been reached following the agency’s continuing work with the Magento 2 platform - platform that is incredibly robust and offers unrivalled flexibility and scalability.

Influencers Raise $95k For Starlight Children’s Foundation In Do-Good Campaign Via Born Bred Talent
  • Campaigns

Influencers Raise $95k For Starlight Children’s Foundation In Do-Good Campaign Via Born Bred Talent

Influencer marketing agency Born Bred Talent has partnered with the Starlight Children’s Foundation to mobilise their talent roster and support the Stream Raiser campaign, contributing over $95k in donations thanks to virtual fundraising efforts.  With a combined reach of 6.2 million across Instagram, TikTok and Twitch, 9 Australian influencers contributed 76% of the $124k raised […]

UNICEF Set To Launch ClickforCovid Relief Gaming Stream
  • Advertising

UNICEF Set To Launch ClickforCovid Relief Gaming Stream

In 2020, the ‘new wave’ of youth consumers have inspired the world with their activism and fundraising, so eGEN is proud to have partnered with UNICEF, Loserfruit and friends to help gamers fight COVID and help the world’s most vulnerable children. The world’s most famous strawberry will be joined by her Click crew for a […]

Silverbullet Achieves Adobe Audience Manager Specialisation
  • Media

Silverbullet Achieves Adobe Audience Manager Specialisation

Silverbullet Data Services Group (Silverbullet), has become one of only four businesses globally to achieve Adobe Specialisation in EMEA for Adobe Audience Manager. Adobe Specialised Partners are acknowledged as the most skilled technical practitioners throughout the global partner ecosystem. Specialisations are earned after organisations achieve a level of certified expertise in an Adobe solution and […]

Businesswoman hand connecting jigsaw puzzle, Business solutions, success and strategy concept
  • Technology

General Mills Partners With Zyper To Build Virtual Superfan Communities

Food company General Mills has partnered with Zyper, a marketing platform that connects brands with their superfans, to build virtual fan communities for General Mills’ brands. As part of the agreement, General Mills will use Zyper’s software to initially identify the Betty Crocker and Fibre One brands’ top one per cent of fans on social […]

Facebook Pledges $500,000 To Group Admins Across Australia
  • Technology

Facebook Pledges $500,000 To Group Admins Across Australia

Facebook is continuing its Facebook Australia Groups Impact Fund, today announcing $500,000 in funding for the program. The grant was originally designated for bushfire recovery groups, however, has now been extended to local communities across the country who might be facing hardship. Facebook said it is on the lookout for groups that have a positive […]