The risk of Facebook comments & defamation

September 21, 2021 By 0 Comments

Do you run your own social media page, whether it be for work or play?

If so, a recent court decision has opened the door for you to be held responsible for defamatory comments made by readers on your posts, whether or not you are even aware of them.

Check out our summary and recommendations below to learn more.

 

What has happened?

On 8 September 2021, the High Court of Australia – our country’s top court – handed down a decision that found media outlets responsible for comments left on their Facebook pages by members of the public.

More specifically, the court found that by creating a public Facebook page, sharing posts and therefore inviting comments, media outlets should be seen as ‘publishers’ of any third-party comments made on their posts.

 

What does it mean for me?

While the case was centred around the Facebook pages of major media companies, the court’s reasoning was pitched broadly enough that it has the potential to apply to everyday individuals and businesses.

So, put simply, the decision means that anyone with a public social media account – particularly Facebook – could potentially be liable for defamatory comments made on their page by third parties if their posts actively facilitate and encourage comments.

This applies whether or not the person is even aware of the defamatory comments.

 

How can I protect myself?

It is too early to tell precisely what impact the decision will have on everyday businesses and individuals.

However, we make the following recommendations:

  1. Monitor all comments on your social media pages as closely as you can – particularly on Facebook.
  2. While you don’t have to turn comments off completely, it is worthwhile having someone check whether any comments have been made on your posts at least once per day.
  3. If a reader has left an unduly harsh or critical comment that you think may be defamatory, consider ‘hiding’ it. That way, the comment will only be visible to the person who made it, and their friends.

This is particularly important if you are creating posts that are likely to encourage readers to leave comments and engage in a discussion on your page.

 

If you’d like to learn more, feel free to reach out to the Arize team today.

Written by James Hunter-Smith, Senior Account Executive