Publisher liability on public platforms

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The media industry has always been one that encouraged the exploration and sharing of ideas, and the use of modern technologies has expanded this on an astronomical scale.

However, in the wake of worldwide events concerning the broadcast of content across social media, regulatory bodies across the world have been scrambling to assign responsibility.

The latest ruling has seen a judge determine that the owners of social media pages can be liable for third-party user comments on their page.

The Supreme Court of New South Wales this week ruled that Facebook pages controlled by the Australian media companies Fairfax, Nationwide News, and Sky News all contained defamatory content and that the media companies should be held liable, despite the fact that the content in question was user-generated and none of the news organisations published the content to Facebook themselves.

The ruling came in the case of former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller against media outlets over comments made by readers on Facebook.

Justice Rothman said the media organisations’ public Facebook pages were not merely “a conduit of the comment” and operated for commercial purposes, which encouraged publication of comments.

This latest ruling shows the evolution of the media industry and its relationship with social media bodies, placing a significant amount of responsibility on the media industry to moderate comments made on their pages.