To support users of online content platforms, the Australian Government has proposed a new Social Media Anti-Trolling Bill. This Bill was brought about following the High Court’s ruling that online media companies are to be liable for defamatory comments made on their social media posts. With this in mind, this new Bill may seem to be designed to offer victims of online defamation a method to complain against defamatory content on social media. However, this proposed law is actually for the benefit of businesses and large media companies. The Bill will now overturn the High Court’s decision to emphasise that an “Australian person or company with a social media page is not the publisher of third-party comments made by other users”.
Experts in defamation law have already begun to argue against this law as it effectively alleviates the responsibility for any online business to moderate content posted on its social media posts. In essence, online businesses cannot be found liable for online defamation on their posts.
The Bill also enables businesses to reveal the identity of social media trolls. This can either be via complaint to the social media company, which will require the troll’s consent, or application for an end-user disclosure order from a court. The court will have the discretion as to the level of information to reveal about the troll. The Commonwealth Attorney-General may also be required to intervene, especially if the defamed individual is socially or economically disadvantaged.
The High Court’s previous ruling was a landmark step in moderating content online and this new Bill will soon wash that away.