The Lawfare Podcast: Defamation Down Under

By Jen Patja Howell
Thursday, September 30, 2021, 5:01 AM

Just two days ago, on September 28, CNN announced that it was turning off access to its Facebook pages in Australia. Why would the network cut off Facebook users Down Under?

It’s not a protest of Facebook or… Australians. CNN’s move was prompted by a recent ruling by the High Court of Australia in Fairfax Media and Voller, which held that media companies can be held liable for defamatory statements made by third parties in the comments on their public pages, even if they didn’t know about them. This is a pretty extraordinary expansion of potential liability for organizations that run public pages with a lot of engagement.

On this week’s episode of Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with David Rolph, a professor at the University of Sydney Law School and an expert on media law, to understand the ruling and its potential impact. What exactly does Voller mean for media companies with some kind of connection to Australia? What does it mean for you, if someone writes a nasty comment under your Facebook post or your tweet? Why did the court rule the way it did? And why is Australia known as the defamation capital of the world?