Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill

Closed 21 Jan 2022

Opened 17 Dec 2021

Overview

The Australian Government is committed to keeping Australians safe from online harm, including the harmful impacts of defamatory online comments posted anonymously.

On 8 September 2021, the High Court handed down its decision in Fairfax Media Publications v Voller [2021] HCA 27 (Voller). A majority of the Court determined that the appellant media companies were ‘publishers’ of defamatory comments made by third parties on their Facebook pages.

The Voller decision highlights the challenges faced by individuals and businesses about defamation liability on social media. Following Voller, it is clear that Australians who maintain an ordinary social media page could liable for defamatory comments posted by third parties—even if they do not know about the comments. The Government considers it is not appropriate for social media account owners to be liable for defamatory comments posted by others.

The Government is also concerned about the harmful impacts of defamatory online comments, which can spread virally on social media. Where these comments are posted anonymously, it can be very difficult for Australians to respond appropriately.

To address these concerns, the Australian Government has prepared an exposure draft of the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2021, together with explanatory materials outlining the features of the legislation.

The issues addressed by the Bill will also be scrutinised by a House Select Committee inquiry into social media and online safety. The Government encourages all stakeholders to participate in the Committee’s inquiry, including in respect of the measures proposed in the Bill. This will ensure scrutiny of the Bill will occur in the context of the broader issues arising in this space.

The Attorney-General’s Department also welcomes direct feedback on the measures being pursued through the Bill. We welcome both written submissions and responses to specific survey questions. Input can be provided through this portal by Friday 21 January 2022.

If you have any questions, please contact defamation@ag.gov.au.

 

Interests

  • Government
  • Legislation