By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia’s prime minister lambasted social media on Thursday as “a coward’s palace”, saying platforms ought to be handled as publishers when defamatory feedback by unidentified persons are posted, pouring gasoline on a raging debate over the nation’s libel legal guidelines.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s feedback counsel he would favour making firms like Fb Inc answerable for defamation close to some content material posted by third events, a place that would additional cement Australia’s outlier standing on the topic.

The nation’s highest courtroom dominated final month that publishers could be held answerable for public feedback on on-line boards, a judgement that has pitted Fb and information organisations towards one another and unfold alarm amongst all sectors that interact with the general public by way of social media.

That in flip has lent new urgency to an ongoing overview of Australia’s defamation legal guidelines, with the federal legal professional basic this week writing to state counterparts stressing the significance of tackling the difficulty.

“Social media has develop into a coward’s palace the place individuals can go on there, not say who they’re, destroy individuals’s lives, and say probably the most foul and offensive issues to individuals, and achieve this with impunity,” Morrison instructed reporters in Canberra.

“They need to must determine who they’re, and the businesses, if they don’t seem to be going to say who they’re, nicely, they don’t seem to be a platform anymore, they are a writer. You may count on us to be leaning additional into this,” he added.

A Fb spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to a Reuters query about Morrison’s remarks, however stated the corporate was actively participating with the overview.

“We assist modernisation of Australia’s uniform defamation legal guidelines and hope for higher readability and certainty on this space,” the spokesperson stated. “Latest courtroom selections have reaffirmed the necessity for such regulation reform.”

A consultant for Twitter Inc’s Australian unit didn’t handle the query of potential legal responsibility however stated “anonymity or pseudonymity just isn’t a defend towards Phrases of Service violations, and Twitter will take motion towards any accounts which might be in violation of the Twitter Guidelines”.

For the reason that courtroom ruling, CNN, which is owned by AT&T Inc, has blocked Australians from its Fb pages https://www.reuters.com/expertise/cnn-quits-facebook-australia-citing-defamation-risk-2021-09-29, citing concern about defamation legal responsibility, whereas the Australian arm of British newspaper the Guardian says it has disabled feedback under most articles posted to the platform.

Australia has butted heads with Fb beforehand, enacting a brand new regulation this yr that forces it and Google to pay for hyperlinks to media firms’ content material.

REVIEW IN FOCUS

Federal Legal professional-Basic Michaelia Money stated in an Oct. 6 letter to state counterparts that she had “acquired appreciable suggestions from stakeholders relating to the potential implications of the Excessive Courtroom’s determination”.

“Whereas I chorus from commenting on the deserves of the Courtroom’s determination, it’s clear … that our work to make sure that defamation regulation is fit-for-purpose within the digital age stays vital,” stated the letter which was seen by Reuters.

No timeline has been given for a way lengthy the overview would possibly final. New South Wales state Legal professional Basic Mark Speakman, who’s main it, stated media, social media and regulation corporations attended three consultations up to now month.

The overview, which has been operating via 2021, has printed 36 submissions on its web site, together with one from Fb which says it shouldn’t be held answerable for defamatory feedback because it has comparatively little skill to watch and take away content material posted beneath publishers’ pages.

Whereas information retailers have been among the many first to criticise the ruling, legal professionals have warned all Australian sectors which depend on social media to work together with the general public are doubtlessly liable.

“The choice has important implications for many who function on-line boards … which permit third-parties to make feedback,” a Regulation Council of Australia spokesperson stated. “It’s not restricted to information organisations.”

The leaders of the state of Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, house to Canberra, are amongst those that have disabled feedback from Fb pages, citing the Excessive Courtroom ruling.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Enhancing by Lincoln Feast and Edwina Gibbs)