CNN restricts Facebook pages in Australia in response to court ruling

WarnerMedia’s global news platform CNN has restricted access to its Facebook pages in Australia.

The news comes after the High Court of Australia ruling that media outlets are “publishers” of comments left on their Facebook pages, meaning media outlets may be liable for defamatory comments made on their Facebook posts.

CNN’s logo

A CNN spokesperson told Mumbrella: “Following the Australian High Court’s ruling, we approached Facebook and asked them if they would support CNN and other publishers by disabling the comment functionality on their platform in Australia. They chose not to do so. As a result, CNN will no longer publish content to Facebook in Australia. We are disappointed that Facebook, once again, has failed to ensure its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue around current events among its users. CNN will, of course, continue to publish content on our own platforms in Australia and to deliver quality journalism to our audiences around the world.”

A Facebook spokesperson said: “We support the ongoing reform of Australia’s uniform defamation laws and look forward to greater clarity and certainty in this area. Recent court decisions have reaffirmed the need for such law reform. While it’s not our place to provide legal guidance to CNN, we have provided them with the latest information on tools we make available to help publishers manage comments.

“We are also working closely with the review of defamation laws established by state, territory and federal attorneys general.”

The High Court ruling that media outlets are indeed “publishers” of the third-party Facebook comments. It considered whether the appellants were liable for the publication of allegedly defamatory “comments” that were posted by third-party Facebook users.

The majority of the court held that the outlets were facilitating and encouraging the “relevant communication”. The majority of the court rejected the argument that for a person to be a publisher, “they must know of the relevant defamatory matter and indeed to convey it”.

Through the creation of a public Facebook page and the posting of content on that page, the outlets therefore facilitated, encouraged, and thereby assisted the publication of comments from third-party Facebook users and were therefore “publishers” of those comments.

The ongoing court case is the first-of-its-kind – no previous defamation cases have dealt with comments on a public Facebook page.

In a statement at the time of the ruling, News Corp Australia executive chairman, Michael Miller, said: “The decision by the High Court in the Voller case is significant for anyone who maintains a public social media page by finding they can be liable for comments posted by others on that page even when they are unaware of those comments.

“This highlights the need for urgent legislative reform and I call on Australia’s attorneys general to address this anomaly and bring Australian law into line with comparable western democracies.”


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