With the surge in more people using social media, the threats of online defamation have also increased proportionately. Perpetrators can use any social media platform like Facebook or Twitter and post defamatory comments anonymously. To curb this problem, the new defamation law in online contexts has set out to make key changes in the existing online defamation laws.
If you are a victim of online defamatory comments, you should consult defamation lawyers Perth who would be able to help you with filing a legal case. Now let’s discuss the new changes in the defamation laws in Australia.
The New Draft Bill
- The High Court of Australia passed a landmark decision in September 2021 in regard to the operation of defamation law in online contexts in Australia. The Court held the media companies as “publishers” of the comments of third-party users made on the Facebook pages.
- It led to individuals and organisations being liable for defamatory third-party comments posted on their social media pages, regardless of whether or not the party handling the page is aware of or intentionally conveys the defamatory comment.
- In the further explanations of the Draft Bill, it was stated by the Attorney General’s Department that the Federal government didn’t consider it appropriate for individuals or organisations to be liable for defamatory third-party comments on the social media pages they administer. So, the Draft Bill proposes to answer the question of where the liability lies for defamatory comments posted on social media platforms.
- Apart from reframing the present cyber defamation law in online contexts, the Draft Bill also goes on to address the unique sort of harm that can be caused by social media defamatory comments when such comments can be anonymously posted and amplified.
- Under the proposed obligations of “unmasking”, social media platforms will have to provide contact details such as name, phone, number, email address and other details for end-users responsible for posting defamatory comments in the country.
Key Changes Proposed In The Draft Bill
The Draft Bill proposes to bring about quite a few changes in the present operation of social media defamation law in social media contexts. Some of them are:
Social Media Service Providers
Social media service providers, instead of the social media page owners (individual or organisation that handles a social media page), would be deemed as “publishers” of the defamatory comments on their platforms and accordingly be liable for it.
The Draft Bill, however, would also have provisions of new defence for the social media platforms for their liability in defamation court proceedings if they have acted or instituted according to a prescribed complaints scheme’s requirements.
Victims Of Defamation
The victims of social media defamation would have 2 new methods to seek to “unmask” the anonymous commenters so that they can bring legal defamation proceedings against them. The methods would be either using the complaint mechanism of a social media service provider or by seeking an “end-user information disclosure order” from a court.
It will enable the victims of anonymous defamation with alternatives to the present approach to unmasking the anonymous users who made the comments, which involves submitting a court application for preliminary discovery.
Defamatory Comments By End Users
The end-users who post defamatory comments on social media platforms may be requested to provide consent to delete their comments or disclose their relevant contact details upon a complaint to the provider of the social media service.
It is not necessary that their consent will be for the social media platform to use the geo-location technology of the provider for disclosing whether or not the end-user made the defamation on the internet from within or outside Australia.
A Provider Of Social Media Services
The Draft Bill sets out to define “social media service” by referring to the definition present in the Online Safety Act 2021, as an electronic service whose primary or sole purpose is establishing online social interaction between 2 or more end-users, connecting end-users with several other end users, allowing end-users to post content on the service and other specified conditions.
A few exclusions mentioned in the Draft Bill also clarify that social media service providers don’t include individuals who just provide carriage services or fee collection or billing services related to social media.
The New Defence To The Defamation Liability
For avoiding penalties and relying on the new defence of the Draft Bill for defamation liability as a “publisher” of defamatory comments on their platforms, providers of social media services will have to:
- ensure that they have a complaints scheme that fulfils the prescribed requirements mentioned in the Draft Bill, and
- to clearly prove that the complaints scheme was strictly followed in respect of any complaint that led to a defamation proceeding.
If you are a victim of online defamatory comments, you can get in touch with one of the leading defamation lawyers firms, the Defamation Lawyer Perth, who can effectively guide you in preparing a case.