Posted by Defamation Lawyers Perth on March 15, 2022

The Australian Government pledges to keep all its citizens safe. They are committed to protecting all the inhabitants from cyber harm. It has become a common scenario today that many people write defamatory comments, also called social media defamation or trolling. Several trolls are being made on social media, that spread across the platform. Most of the content remains unfiltered.

Since most of the trolling are done by unidentified people, it becomes challenging to enforce defamation laws against them and take action.

Voller decision

It is important to mention High Court’s decision done in Fairfax Media Publications v Voller in 2021 HCA 27 here. This decision threw a lot of light on the challenges faced by the people in reply to the anonymous trollers.

Fairfax Media Publications v Voller decision was handed down in September 2021. As per the Voller decision, Australians who have created a social media page, are exposed to defamation liability for the defamatory posts by the other people on their page. They may or may not be aware of those defamatory comments.

Social Media Anti-Trolling Bill of 2022

The Australian court wished to address this problem urgently. This is why the Australian Government has created social media defamation law called the Anti-Trolling Social Media Bill 2022. This bill will protect the people from defamation liability when the users are allowed to post a comment on the social media page.

Social Media Anti-Trolling Bill of 2022: Highlights

This Bill is a crucial decision. It shows the government’s commitment to keeping their Australians safe from online trolling. It will also empower the Australian people to reveal the identity of defamatory comments originator.

This Act comes under the Commonwealth’s legislative powers as per paragraph 51(v) (communications) of the Constitution.
The Bill will seek defamation disputes in the center about the relationship between the victim of the troll and the person posting anonymous defamatory comments.

As per the social media services, that work in accordance with the complaints scheme, the commenter’s contact details can be disclosed with consent. It may also comply with Australian court orders that need them to suggest contact details.

In case the troller is not identified, the Bill will allow the victim to treat the social media service provider liable for the potential defamation proceedings.

Know more by calling social media defamation lawyer Perth.

Outline of this Act

The general law of the tort of defamation:

  • An Australian person who maintains a social media page and is a publisher of third party material posting on the page
  • If the material is posted on a social media page in Australia, the provider of the social media service becomes the publisher of the material.
  • If the social media service provider is the publisher of the material posted on a social media page, the provider has a defense in a defamation proceeding, if some conditions are fulfilled.
  • If a person posted material on a social media page, an application can be put in the Australian court for the user information disclosure order. This will need the provider to disclose the poster’s contact details or location data to the person putting the application.
  • If the social media provider is a foreign body with a minimum of 250,000 Australian account‑holders, the social media service provider must have a nominated entity in Australia.

Social media providers’ defense

As per Section 15 of the Bill, there is a clause for a defense for social media providers. It will protect them against a defamation proceeding relating to defamatory comments if they are found as publishers under section 14 of the Bill.

The social media provider needs to have a complaints scheme that follows all the requirements of the Bill. The requirements of the complaint scheme are long and detailed. It is summarized below:

  • The complainants can make a complaint to the service provider about a comment
  • The commenter needs to be informed that their comment is under complaint within 72 hours
  • The country, location data, and other details of the commenter are disclosed to the complainant within 72 hours.
  • With the consent of the commenter, the comment complained about can be removed.
  • After the complaint resolution, the commenter must be notified within 72 hours of resolution.

If the social media provider maintained and complied with a complaints scheme, and fulfilled all the above conditions, the provider can use defense as an action in the tort of defamation. They can take the help of defamation lawyers Perth.

There can be other situations in which:

  • The complainant did not ask the provider to reveal the contact details of the commenter and even the court has not made end-user information disclosure order.
  • The complainant has requested the provider to disclose the location and other details of the commenter and the provider has been providing all the details.
  • The end-user information disclosure order was given against the provider, and the provider revealed the contact details of the commenter to the complainant and agreed with the court order.

House Select Committee inquiry

The government has also established a House Select Committee. It is an external site that examines and inquires the online damage. The role of the committee is to scrutinize the problems in the Bill. It also proposes certain measures. They provide duties based on anonymous online defamatory comments, online harming, and protection measures against them.

State and Territory laws

The Australian Government is also working with several states and territories to establish defamation laws. They want to ensure that the laws against social media defamation remain applicable and implemented in this digital era.

The Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2022 should complement the existing work being done with the states and territories on defamation. It also addresses the urgent needs of the people who are Australian business owners or individuals who maintain a simple social media presence.

This bill is the best to offer extreme protection for the page owner and social media providers, against defamatory comments by third parties. This will make sure that such comments that are tort of defamation do not cause problems to the Page Owners.
To seek help in such cases, get in touch with defamation lawyers Perth WA