Australian court rules news publishers liable for readers' comments on Facebook pages

Australian court rules news publishers liable for readers' comments on Facebook pages
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Australian news publishers are liable for Facebook comments posted by third parties in response to the publishers’ content, the country’s high court ruled Wednesday. 

The court dismissed an appeal against a previous ruling in favor of former juvenile detainee Dylan Voller in his high-profile defamation case against Australian newspapers and television stations. 

“The Court of Appeal was correct to hold that the acts of the appellants in facilitating, encouraging and thereby assisting the posting of comments by the third-party Facebook users rendered them publishers of those comments,” the court ruled.

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Voller brought proceedings against the publishers to hold them liable for allegedly defamatory comments posted by Facebook users in response to stories posted by the publishers' accounts.

The case will now return to the New South Wales Supreme Court to determine if the comments defamed Voller, Reuters reported

A spokesperson for Nine, one of the publishers Voller has sued, told Reuters it was “disappointed with the outcome” and said it will “have ramifications for what we can post on social media in the future.” 

Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald the decision was significant for any user that has a public social media page, the newswire reported. 

"They can be liable for comments posted by others on that page even when they are unaware of those comments," he said.