How clubs can protect themselves online

September 22nd, 2021

Clubs across northern NSW could potentially be affected by a High Court ruling last month which declared that a publisher can be held responsible for defamatory comments readers leave on its social media pages.

What was the ruling?

The High Court ruled on 8 September that media publishers are liable for defamatory third-party comments posted on their social media pages. Because by facilitating and encouraging the comments, they assist in their publication.

How does this affect my club?

The decision has broader implications for all social media users, not just media outlets. It means that anyone who runs a social media page can be sued over derogatory comments posted by readers or random group members – even if you are not aware of the comment.

If you post content on your social media pages and invite comments – and other people post defamatory comments in the reply section – you are legally the “publisher” of those comments and can be sued.

While the High Court case focused on comments made on Facebook posts, the implications are not specific to Facebook. If a club has Twitter, Instagram or other social media accounts or websites that have a comments section, the ruling can still apply.

What can my club do to protect itself?

The administrators of your Facebook and Instagram pages can turn off comments altogether, while Twitter allows users to restrict comments so only certain people can post to it.

The High Court ruling may lead to managers or moderators of social media accounts to make greater use of these features and strictly moderate comments or, where possible, switch them off completely.

It may also be necessary to block individuals from interacting with your social media accounts.

It is also important to have a clear set of rules for people interacting with your social media accounts. Your club should also lead by example and act in a professional manner online.

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