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Aus Gov to Introduce New Bill Making Social Media Platforms Responsible for Defamation by “Online Trolls”


The federal government will introduce a bill it says will target anonymous “online trolls” and strengthen defamation laws, with the bill due for release later this week.

Significantly for editors, the proposed legislation will overturn the recent Australian High Court ruling that found that social media pages of the media were comment editors, meaning they can be held responsible for comments. defamatory facts on the respective social media platforms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the press conference announcing the bill (Credit: Scott Morrison Facebook page)

In a media statement, Attorney General Michaelia Cash said: “Since the High Court ruling in the Voller case, it is clear that ordinary Australians risk being held legally responsible for defamatory material posted by anonymous trolls in line.


“It’s not fair and it’s not fair. Australians expect to be held accountable for their own actions, but should not be forced to pay for the actions of others they cannot control.

“The reforms will make it clear that in defamation law Australians who run or maintain a social media page are not ‘editors’ of comments made by others.”

Following the High Court ruling, CNN restricted its Facebook pages in Australia.

Cash continued, “Social media providers should take their fair share of responsibility for defamatory content posted on their platforms. This reflects the current law.

“However, if defamatory comments are made in Australia and social media providers help victims contact those responsible, it is appropriate that they have access to a defense.”

The other two changes the bill seeks to make require social media platforms to establish a standardized complaints system and a new Federal Court order that will allow users who believe they have been attacked anonymously online to request the true identity of the author.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “We cannot allow social media platforms to provide a shield for anonymous trolls to destroy reputations and lives. We cannot allow social media platforms to take no responsibility for the content of their platforms. They cannot allow it, diffuse it and wash their hands of it. It must stop.

“These will be some of the most powerful powers in the world to fight online trolls.

“Anonymous trolls are warned, you will be named and held accountable for what you say.” Big tech companies are notified, remove the anonymity shield, or are held accountable for what you post.

“In a free society with free speech, you cannot be a coward and attack people and expect not to be held responsible for it.”

Reset Australia issued a media statement criticizing the proposed legislation, saying “troll hunting is not the solution to the problem of social media hate”.

Reset Australia Executive Director Chris Cooper commented: “The most pressing issue here isn’t the trolls, it’s the disproportionate reach of their content allowed by the algorithms of social media companies prioritizing the sensational, scandalous and conspiratorial content – the form that libelous content typically takes. .

“Forcing social media companies responsible for disclosing the identity of individuals does not hold platforms accountable for their lucrative amplification that allows this content to go viral.

“Online anonymity protects trolls from liability, but it is also an important principle of a free and open Internet that protects criticism from the powerful who can hold leaders to account.

“We cannot throw away the anonymity and protection it offers to vulnerable communities, for the sole purpose of overpowering the trolls who for the most part can only do harm because of social media platforms that take advantage of it. amplification of their content. “

The bill comes after Defense Minister Peter Dutton successfully sued refugee activist Shane Bazzi for $ 35,000 in damages for a six-word Tweet, claiming Dutton was a “rape apologist” . Bazzi tweeted from an account with his name on it, not anonymously.

Mumbrella has reached out to Meta (formerly Facebook), Twitter, TikTok and Snap for comment.

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