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Australian PM on social media amid Facebook fight

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison can hold companies like Facebook Inc. liable for defamation.

Sydney:

Australia’s prime minister on Thursday slammed social media as “a cowardly palace”, saying platforms should be treated as publishers when derogatory comments are posted by unknown people, creating a furor over the country’s libel laws. fuels the debate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments suggest he would support holding companies such as Facebook Inc liable for defamation in relation to certain content posted by third parties, a position that further strengthens Australia’s external position on the subject. can strengthen.

The country’s highest court ruled last month that publishers can be held liable for public comments on online forums, a decision that has pitted Facebook and news organizations against each other and the public through social media. Alarm has been spread in all the areas connected with it.

This in turn has given new urgency to an ongoing review of Australia’s defamation laws, with the federal attorney general writing to state counterparts this week emphasizing the importance of tackling the issue.

Morrison told reporters in Canberra, “Social media has become a coward’s palace where people can go there, not say who they are, can destroy people’s lives, and make people feel worse and more objectionable.” can say things and do that.”

“They have to recognize who they are, and companies, if they’re not going to say who they are, well, they’re not a platform anymore, they’re a publisher. You can expect us to lean on . in it,” he added.

A Facebook spokesperson did not directly respond to a Reuters question about Morrison’s remarks, but said the company was actively engaging in the review.

“We support the modernization of defamation laws similar to Australia’s and look forward to greater clarity and certainty in this area,” the spokesperson said. “Recent court decisions have confirmed the need for such law reform.”

A representative for Twitter Inc.’s Australian unit did not address the question of potential liability, but said that “anonymity or pseudonymity does not shield against breach of the Terms of Service, and Twitter will take action against any account that violates the Twitter Rules.” infringes”.

Since the court’s ruling, CNN, which is owned by AT&T Inc., has sent Australians to its Facebook page https://www.reuters.com/technology/cnn-quits-facebook-australia-citing-defamation- Has been blocked from risk-2021-09. -29, citing concerns about defamation liability, while the Australian branch of British newspaper The Guardian says it has disabled comments at the bottom of most articles posted on the platform.

Australia has nodded with Facebook earlier this year by enacting a new law that forces it and Google to pay for links to media companies’ content.

review in focus

Federal Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said in a letter to state counterparts on October 6 that she had “received considerable feedback from stakeholders regarding the potential implications of the High Court’s decision”.

“While I refrain from commenting on the merits of the court’s decision, it is clear that the defamation law is fit for purpose in the digital age,” the letter seen by Reuters said. .

No timeline has been given for how long the review might last. New South Wales state attorney general Mark Speakman, who is leading it, said the media, social media and law firms participated in three consultations last month.

The review, which is running through 2021, has published 36 submissions on its website, including one from Facebook that says it should not be held liable for defamatory comments because it includes content posted under publishers’ pages. has relatively little ability to monitor and remove.

While news outlets were among the first to criticize the ruling, lawyers have warned all Australian territories that rely on social media to interact with the public are potentially liable.

“This decision has significant implications for those who operate online forums … which allow third parties to comment,” a spokesman for Australia’s Law Council said. “It’s not limited to news organizations.”

Leaders from the state of Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, home of Canberra, are among those who have disabled comments from Facebook pages, citing the High Court ruling.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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