© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: In this April 12, 2020 illustration, a 3D printed Facebook logo is placed between small toy figures in front of a keyboard. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / File Photo
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia's largest news publishers, including Rupert Murdoch & # 39; s the Australian, are responsible for comments readers post on their Facebook pages (NASDAQ), the High Court ruled on Wednesday.
The court dismissed an appeal against a previous judgment that approved a defamation suit brought by Dylan Voller, a young man who was the subject of several news stories about juvenile detention.
"This is a sensible decision that is in line with long-standing publication law," Voller's attorneys, O'Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors, said in a statement following the verdict.
Voller had said that after reports were posted about him on the news companies' Facebook pages, a number of external Facebook users made defamatory comments and alleged that the news agencies were liable as the publisher.
Voller sued the publishers, including Fairfax Media, the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, owned by Nine, and others.
After a court ruled in Voller's favor, the media appealed on the grounds that they managed a Facebook page on which third parties published their own material.
However, the High Court dismissed the appeal and ordered the organizations to pay the costs.
"The actions of the (media companies) in facilitating, encouraging, and thus supporting the posting of comments by external Facebook users made them the publishers of those comments," stated Judge Rothman.
At the time the comments were posted, Facebook did not allow page moderators to opt out of comments on posts, but this has changed.
The case is now being brought back to the New South Wales Supreme Court to see if any of the comments defamed Voller.
A spokesperson for Nine said it was "disappointed with the outcome … as it will affect what we can post on social media in the future."
Michael Miller, executive chairman of News Corp (NASDAQ 🙂 Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald the court ruling would matter to anyone who maintains a public social media page.
"You may be held responsible for comments posted on this site by others, even if they are unaware of those comments," he said.
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