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Australian leader: Facebook should be held liable for anonymous comments

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Tech giants may rely more on European Union laws than U.S. laws to police what happens on their sites.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is demanding that Facebook and other social media platforms be held liable for defamatory comments posted anonymously.

“Cowards who go anonymously on to social media and vilify people, and harass them, and bully them, and engage in defamatory statements, they need to be responsible for what they’re saying,” Morrison said on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

“Social media has become a coward’s palace where people can just go on there, not say who they are, destroy people’s lives and say the most foul and offensive things to people, and do so with impunity,” he added.

The AP noted that Australian leaders have been active in trying to keep social media a safe place. Earlier this year, the country passed laws requiring Google and Facebook to pay for journalism, and social media executives can be imprisoned if their platforms stream violent images, it added. 

Morrison’s government and U.S. tech giants have reportedly been fighting off anonymous commentators who use social media to bully and vilify others. 

The Australian state and territory governments are now racing to rewrite their defamation laws after its high court ruled last month that social media outlets can be held liable for defamatory comments posted by third parties on Facebook pages, the AP reported. The ruling applies to administrators of all Facebook pages, governments included.

While the court did not rule whether Facebook was liable because it was not being sued, Australian Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said on Wednesday that the review of defamation laws would examine whether Facebook should be held responsible for users’ posts, the news service noted.

Facebook said it supported “modernization of Australia’s uniform defamation laws and hopes for greater clarity and certainty in this area.” 

Tags Australia Facebook Scott Morrison Social media
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