On 8 September 2021 the High Court found that media organisations (in this case Fairfax Media Publications, Nationwide news, and Australian News Channel) – by creating a public facebook page and posting content on it – encouraged and assisted the publication of comments from third-party Facebook users.
The consequence is that those organisations are taken to be the publishers of the third party comments. By being taken to be publishers, those organisations may be liable for defamatory material in the comments irrespective of whether they know what is in the comments.
Will this lead to less inflammatory and sensationalised news articles? One might hope, but then of course the alternative is just to turn the comments off.
This decision is one in a lengthening line demonstrating the risks of posting defamatory material online. Defamation proceedings are enormously costly for all parties, it is always best to err on the side of caution when commenting.