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Responsibility for User Comments Posted on Facebook

The High Court of Australia decided today that a newspaper with a Facebook page is responsible for defamatory comments posted by Facebook users on the newspaper's Facebook page.

"The appellants' attempt to portray themselves as passive and unwitting victims of Facebook's functionality has an air of unreality. Having taken action to secure the commercial benefit of the Facebook functionality, the appellants bear the legal consequences."

None of this is surprising.  There are many prior cases in different areas that reach the same result.  There was an Advertising Standards Board decision against VB that came to a similar conclusion in a different area of law, and also the ACCC v. Allergy Pathways case from about 10 years ago.

The next question is whether Facebook could be liable for defamation for user content.

Fairfax Media Publications v Voller [2021] HCA 27 

And see Social Media Best Practice Guide from the ACA and the Diageo case from ASB.

What is interesting about the High Court decision is that it focuses on cases and texts from over 100 years ago, and looks at very few cases concerning the Internet or social media.


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