An Australian judge has ruled media companies legally responsible for Facebook comments posted under their editorial content, the Guardian reports.
New South Wales’s Supreme Court affirmed commercial entities are publishers of Facebook comments, and consequently must prevent defamatory remarks from being posted.
ABC’s managing director David Anderson argues publishers “can’t control the algorithm and how [their] stories are surfacing, you can’t control the comments, and now you can’t control how that media is being used.”
Hugh Marks, CEO for news organisation Nine, adds “responsible publishers” do exercise discretion—on their own websites, disabling comments on stories where they know the defamation “risk is there.”
Australian news organisations were already liable for comments on their official Facebook pages—but not tasked with removing problematic comments, or preemptively moderating conversation until now.
Richard Allan, vice-president of Facebook's policy solutions, also disagreed with the ruling, saying “individuals should be held responsible for [...] defamatory content.”
But the court determined publishers were able to hide comments until Facebook dealt with them, and such moderation required two to three employees.
The judge noted publishers did nothing when defamatory comments were posted on “their public Facebook pages so as to increase interest [...] and advertising revenue.”
Should news outlets be responsible for Facebook comments?