Moderate your social media channels or risk legal action.That might be the lesson from a former Don Dale Detention Centre detainee’s win in court last month, in a civil defamation case against three major media outlets who failed to understand their Facebook pages may be considered an extension of their publishing reach and this includes comments posted on social media by the public.
So what happened?
The media outlets posted articles on their Facebook pages about a youth detainee. The articles spurred a series of negative comments and accusations from the public, which went unmoderated on Facebook.
Comments included accusations that the youth had assaulted a Salvation Army officer and bitten off someone's ear. The detainee felt these comments were defamatory and said the media outlets should have known there was a risk of defamation after placing the articles online and he took them to court.
In short, the court ruled the media organisations could be considered publishers of the third-party comments and were therefore liable for them; noting that publishers cannot turn a blind eye to comments posted on their sites and not expect to be penalised.
We’re living in a digital age and no doubt we’ll see media laws change in response to the shifting landscape of publishing, with more and more people voicing their (informed and uninformed) opinions, online.
What do you think? Is it going too far to expect media to assume responsibility for conversations by third parties on their social channels? Do you closely watch
the conversations happening in the comments on your social pages?