New laws to better protect Australians on social media, unmasking “anonymous” trolls

New proposed social media (anti-trolling) laws have been announced in response to the High Court’s decision in Fairfax Media Publications v Voller [2021] VCA 27 designed to better protect Australians from being defamed on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

On 28 November 2021 the Morrison Government introduced the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2021 which addresses the harm of defamatory comments posted on social media platforms and considers the legal implications of the Voller case. You can read our analysis of the Voller case here.

Since the decision of Voller was handed down, the Australian Government has stated that it does not consider it is appropriate for owners of social media pages to be liable for defamatory comments posted on their pages by others.

The new Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill seeks to:

  • unmask the identity of individuals who post defamatory content on social media by allowing users to apply to the court for an “end-user information disclosure order”. Such orders will force social media providers to disclose details of the originator/publisher to victims so that defamation action may be taken;
  • makes clear that social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be liable for third party defamatory comments subject to a new conditional defence (and without the ability to rely on the innocent dissemination defence);
  • clarifies that contrary to the decision in Voller, people who maintain a social media page will not be considered “publishers” of third party comments posted on their page for the purpose of defamation proceedings; and
  • establishes a standardised complaints system to encourage the prompt removal of defamatory remarks from online forums.
When will the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill be passed into law?

The Government has established a Select Committee to consider the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill 2021. Submissions to the Committee are due by 21 January 2022 and the Committee is due to publish its final report by 15 February 2022.

Elit Lawyers by McGirr & Snell has over 60 years defamation experience acting on behalf of individual plaintiffs including high profile executives, parliamentarians, sporting and public figures and companies in respect of publications published in both electronic and traditional media forums.

Do not hesitate to contact Danielle Snell and/or Robert McGirr in relation to any defamation concerns.

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