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Australia says Facebook users are responsible for the shitty comments under their own posts

The ruling could make you responsible for comments from complete strangers.

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Image: Unsplash

When most people think about how to conduct themselves on the internet, they probably feel as if they are responsible for whatever they post on sites like Facebook, whether on their own page or comments on someone else’s post. Well, the Australian High Court has made a ruling that says that’s not necessarily the case.

In a new report from Gizmodo, it was revealed that an Australian High Court (equivalent to the US Supreme Court) ruling could change the way users think of their own liability on the internet. According to the report, the court determined that the originator of a post is the one responsible for the post’s comments, no matter who left them.

Yes, this is as ridiculous as it sounds. What the Australian court was insistent on determining was who was responsible for the “publishing” of those comments, by definition. Here’s the conclusion that the courts came to, via ABC News:

“The court found that, by creating a public Facebook page and posting content, the outlets had facilitated, encouraged and thereby assisted the publication of comments from third-party Facebook users, and they were, therefore, publishers of those comments.”

These findings come from a 2019 lawsuit filed by an Aboriginal-Australian man, Dylan Voller against several news outlets. Voller was in a child detention center that came under investigation for child abuse. News outlets began running a story with a video, showing Voller being a potential subject of abuse.

As is the case on the internet, comments under the story got pretty toxic, like people suggesting that Voller deserved any abuse he received. When the original stories came out, users didn’t have the ability to turn off comments for a post, a feature that has since been added.

The Australian High Court decision could be a slippery slope. While this case is unusual considering the content of the post and the inability to stop comments at the time, the decision could set a potentially harmful precedent for future cases. Everyone should be accountable for their own actions online, but this ruling could make users responsible for the comments of complete strangers.

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