Australian High Court rules Facebook media may face prosecution, based on comments / Digital Information World
A new Australian High Court ruling could have negative consequences for Australian media on Facebook, based on the comments under their posts.
So, first of all: what decision are we talking about? Well, the Australian High Court, after much deliberation, has ruled that Australian Facebook Pages may be subject to legal action if the comments under their posts feature inflammatory and uninformed rhetoric. Now, as this author is sure most readers will believe at this point, this is an unusually specific decision. What could have caused this? Also, what effect will this have on online journalism in the country? To answer these questions, let’s go back to the beginning and see why this decision was made in the first place.
The question of harmful journalism has been asked several times throughout history. However, the choice to focus specifically on the public response to such journalism was only raised recently after the trial of a Dylan Voller. Inmates at a youth detention center in Darwin had been physically abused and even tortured in 2016. Dylan Voller was one of the detainees at that same center and has been accused by numerous media outlets of propagating and even directing the attacks. A popular headline, titled “Dylan Voller’s Prison Incident List Exceeds 200” is what would cement the public perception as being firmly against the individual.
Lawyers for Dylan Voller argued in court that these news outlets deliberately framed their stories to support a point of view against their client, even using flimsy or incorrect information to do so. As a result, these influential media actively manipulated the perception against Voller and tarnished the integrity of a trial even before it began. Apparently, the High Court of Australia accepted and clamped down on these outlets.
So where does that leave Facebook-based journalism? Well, articles that frame stories in a neutral and unaffected way, or even those that don’t promote harmful agendas are fine. Even if the perception in the comments is clearly negative, the medium in question will not be to blame if their intentions are not prejudicial. While this can have a negative effect on the free press, with writers being more careful not to offend sensitivities, their brand of journalism is not actively harmed. It’s just that clickbait and other articles have a stopper now.
Ultimately, as with all of these decisions, speculation and reality don’t always match. Maybe the courts will use this new loophole to actively persecute new outlets and the like, or maybe they will be fair in their judgment. Only time and experience will tell.
H / T: ABC
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