Everyone knows that nasty comments are best left unsaid.

The law calls nasty comments defamation and awards financial compensation against anyone who publishes defamatory comments.

Who is a publisher of defamatory comments?

In the past, TV Stations, Newspapers, and anyone who distributed a handout were publishers. They still are.

But now we have social media. People and businesses who set up social media pages on Facebook and Instagram are publishers, but not Facebook itself (it is a ‘platform’).

A person who posts an article or comment is of course a publisher. But is the holder of a Facebook account, the person who is responsible for or administers the page also liable for other people’s defamatory comments which are posted on their page?

According to the recent High Court of Australia decision of Fairfax Media v Voller, the answer is ‘yes’. The Court held that the owner of the Facebook page was liable as a publisher for all comments posted on their page, even by trolls.

This decision has far-reaching consequences. Everyone with a Facebook / Instagram page needs to become familiar with and use the settings which allow for comments to be restricted.