Be care­ful what you post

Stark on­line warn­ing from media ex­perts

Tweed Daily News - - NEWS - JODIE CALLCOTT

SO­CIAL media has changed the game on how we in­ter­act.

It’s a plat­form to share voices, but users need to be care­ful about what they pub­lish.

That is the warn­ing from South­ern Cross Univer­sity jour­nal­ism lec­turer Jeanti St Clair in the wake of an ex­plo­sion of so­cial media groups and ‘cit­i­zen jour­nal­ism’.

Ms St Clair said dig­i­tal defama­tion was on the rise be­cause so­cial media users lacked an un­der­stand­ing of media law. “Copy­right, defama­tion and con­tempt law are bound around a set of agreed pro­fes­sional pro­to­cols,” she said.

“Now any­body has ac­cess to the in­ter­net but they don’t nec­es­sar­ily have the dig­i­tal lit­er­acy to un­der­stand the cur­rent state of the laws and are get­ting caught up in defama­tion cases.”

Ms St Clair said all it took was one defam­a­tory com­ment to open your­self up to a le­gal bat­tle.

“Pro­vided it’s (the com­ment) com­mu­ni­cated to one or more peo­ple – it doesn’t need a large au­di­ence to be con­sid­ered defam­a­tory,” she ex­plained.

“If you take on the role as ad­min­is­tra­tor of a Face­book page or a website and have an open com­ments sec­tion, you need to mon­i­tor all com­ments and posts.”

Free­lance jour­nal­ist Ta­nia Spier­sphillips, who also runs the Kingscliff Hap­pen­ings Face­book group, said com­mu­nity group ad­min­is­tra­tors had to be vig­i­lant and across the lat­est media and pub­li­ca­tion laws.

Ms Spiers-phillips said she treated the Face­book group, which has nearly 23,000 mem­bers, as if it was a news­pa­per.

“I think it’s important to read widely of media law and treat it like a news­pa­per,” Ms Spiers-phillips said.

“You really have to be vig­i­lant with run­ning a com­mu­nity group, it is long hours and it’s very in­tru­sive in your fam­ily life.

“Make sure your group is on lock­down so posts have to be ap­proved and then you’ve got to mon­i­tor in­di­vid­ual com­ments.

“My rec­om­men­da­tion is don’t do it.” In June last year, the NSW Supreme Court found media com­pa­nies li­able for defam­a­tory com­ments posted by users on their Face­book page in re­sponse to news ar­ti­cles.

The Guardian wrote this month the de­ci­sion had wide-rang­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tions for media com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia, which are now held re­spon­si­ble for con­tent posted by users on their Face­book pages and posts.

The ar­ti­cle said a NSW court had this month dis­missed an ap­peal from sev­eral Aus­tralian media com­pa­nies as they had suf­fi­cient con­trol over com­ments to be con­sid­ered pub­lish­ers.

In a joint state­ment, News Corp, Nine and Sky said the court had shown Aus­tralian defama­tion law was “com­pletely out of step with the re­al­i­ties of pub­lish­ing in the dig­i­tal age”.

“The de­ci­sion fails to ac­knowl­edge that it is Face­book that con­trols its plat­form, in­clud­ing that Face­book gives media com­pa­nies no abil­ity to turn off com­ments on their pages. It is Face­book that must be held re­spon­si­ble for con­tent posted by its users, not media com­pa­nies.

“Today’s de­ci­sion means the media can­not share any story via Face­book with­out fear of be­ing sued for com­ments which they did not pub­lish and have no con­trol over.

“It also cre­ates the ex­tra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion where every public Face­book page – whether it be held by politi­cians, busi­nesses or courts – is now li­able for third party com­ments on those pages.”

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