Editorial June 28th 2019

Welcome to this week’s editorial, Bullying, ranting, name calling, denigration, shaming, naming. We see posts made that edge on racisim, homophobia, political extremism. We see cruelty that is either physical or psychological being handed out in and once it begins we see others follow suit. But who is real in Social Media—it is easy to hide behind fictitious accounts and profiles that are set up to establish anonymity so when it begins to get harmful on social media in cases like defamation and criminal breaches of the law what recourse do people have? Across the media the news is that a recent decision of the Supreme Court of New South Wales determined that media companies could be liable for the defamatory comments made on news stories on their Facebook pages.

This means that media outlets such as the Bay Post, The Beagle, the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC could be held liable for the comments of random people on the internet. In the case of Dylan Voller whose court case attracted significant press coverage he sued the publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, the Centralian Advocate, Sky News Australia and The Bolt Report for defamation over the content on their Facebook pages.

The Conversation reports “What makes this case unique is that Voller did not sue based on posts made by the media companies who were responsible for the pages. Rather, he sued based on comments made by members of the public on ten Facebook posts, arguing that the media companies behind the pages were responsible.” The bottom line on this is that The Beagle, for example, is responsible for your comment to any article we might post on our Facebook page. The same applies to our website articles. As a safeguard however The Beagle uses the tools that are provided by Facebook to allow moderation of a comment before it is published and at the discretion of the moderator that comment can be Hidden or Deleted. The problem there is that requires the commitment to moderate every single comment however that is what is required. It has always been the case that anyone responsible for a public accessed Facebook page is liable for the content and comments on that page. It is clearly stated in the Terms of Use. Irrespective as to whether the comment is made by Mr Joe Realperson or Miss WaterfallPossy any Admin on a site such as a Facebook Noticeboard who publishes it (knowing allows it to be visible) is liable. So if you are an admin on a Facebook group be advised. The Beagle website allows comments to its articles and Councillors on several occasions have taken a shot at the Beagle editor for allowing people to post under a nom-de-plume or Name and Address supplied calling those who do so cowards. Once again each and all the letters to the editor and the comments come from known contributors that the editor is aware of, respecting their privacy. Most often the subject of their letter or the contribution of their comment is honest, factual, heartfelt and real and irrespective of who they are they deserve to be able to convey this while keeping their names suppressed because, more often than not, in the small community we live in, they will be held to account for what they might say or reveal that is in the public good or the public interest. As is the case of contributions from Council workers, public servants, members of our minority groups and even councillors themselves. However, irrespective of who says what on the Beagle, each and every comment is moderated before being published. Welcome to the new world order. . Until next, Lei

#Editorial #LeiParker #Opinion #Weekly

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