Media organisations liable for Facebook comments

An Australian judge has ruled that three media organisations “could be considered publishers” of comments made on their Facebook pages and are “therefore liable for them”. Now, they’re open to defamation cases.

Not Facebook, not the commenters themselves. The media companies running the Facebook pages.

I spent a year running social for the a division of the ABC, one of Australia’s biggest media outlet. The tools Facebook provides to moderate pages are woeful at scale. And they’ve spent years teaching people that engagement numbers are the only things that matter (especially as traffic numbers fell off a cliff).

Media outlets bought in – tragically so – and now those two things collided with the hostile world of social media. Someone had to pay. And media orgs have been caught holding the bag.

As I was leaving the ABC, managers were talking about the importance of building a “town square” on social. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have been selling that for years. The importance of discussion. Pity no media outlet has taken comments seriously enough to pull that off. Social media companies sure haven’t.

This case, should it rule against the media outlets, could have major ramifications for companies on Facebook. Moderation is a joke on the platform. Why would you risk it?