Facebook Defamation: High Court rules page owners could be held responsible

A recent ruling by the High Court of Australia may have significantly changed the responsibility and consequences faced by Facebook page owners who post defamatory content.

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What is Defamation?

Defamation is the oral or written communication of a false statement about another that unjustly harms their reputation; it is also known as slander or libel. The key features of defamation include a statement, that has been published, that has caused injury and is false. As such, the truth can be a defence to defamation allegations.

One of Internet Removals’ core businesses includes assisting clients with the removal of defamatory content online (online content removal service), particularly as this can have a significant impact on an individual or business’ reputation. Facebook is just one platform where we see a large number of clients experiencing defamatory reviews slandering their business or posts about them personally.

Previously it had been the publisher of the content who was responsible and liable for defamation if proven. The High Court has now ruled that media companies are liable for any comments from the general public on posts they put on Facebook.

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What does this ruling mean?

This latest ruling means that the courts consider the media host of the page legally responsible for the comments that appear on the page even though these comments are made by members of the public. The ruling means that victims of defamation can skip targeting the actual person who made the comment and instead pursues the actual owner of the page.

The message from the High Court is clear: if a company wants to have a presence on social media, they are also responsible for moderating the content that is made in response to its posts. Further, communications law expert Brett Walker has indicated that this ruling could have even broader consequences, including that any organisation that has a social media account could be liable for defamation on the same basis.

On one hand, it seems to be a positive step forward that media outlets and other businesses need to take responsibility for their social media accounts and police the comments posted, but does this present an unfairness to the business and let the trolls off the hook? In any case, this at least provides victims with a way to go around the poster (which is beneficial particularly if the poster is anonymous) and go straight to the publisher of the content to have it removed.

defamatory postings

How can we assist you to remove Facebook business page?

Internet Removals can assist with content removal, particularly if you are the subject of defamatory postings. Further, Internet Removals are specialists in online reputation management, so if you or your business’s reputation have been affected by the content on Facebook, Google any other online platforms, we may be able to assist.

We can be contacted by either phoning 1300 039 196 or sending an email to  team@internetremovals.com.

Disclaimer: There is no obligation in contacting Internet Removals for advice relating to online defamatory content and our services with removal. Internet Removals is not providing any legal advice. If legal advice is recommended or required, Internet Removals can refer you to IRG Law Pty Ltd. You should not rely upon the contents of this newsletter for any litigation, decision to litigate or decision to publish material online.

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