CNN blocks Australians from accessing its Facebook Pages after a court ruled it can be liable for defamation in public comment sections. This was done after Facebook refused to help in disabling comments in the country.
After the Australian High Courts ruled this month, that all publishers were legally responsible for comments posted below stories – even if the stories themselves were not defamatory, CNN will be the first major news organization to pull its Facebook presence in Australia.
Though CNN does not feature prominently in Australian media consumption, the decision could have echoed across the industry with other outlets following suit. Targeting Australia as a growth market many global mastheads have boosted their operations in Australia.
Michael Bradley, managing partner of Marque Lawyers, which works on defamation cases, “This is the first domino to fall. Others will follow for sure … mainly media entities who feel they can happily live without the Australian Facebook audience.”According to CNN, Facebook declined to help them and other publishers disable public comments in the country following the ruling. This request was made during a course of an ongoing defamation lawsuit, after which CNN decided to block its Facebook page in Australia on Wednesday.
CNN spokeswoman in a statement said, “We are disappointed that Facebook, once again, has failed to ensure its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue around current events among its users.”
A Facebook spokesperson said, “While it’s not our place to provide legal guidance to CNN, we have provided them with the latest information on tools we make available to help publishers manage comments.”
According to Facebook, there are several features available for publishers and other users to restrict who can comment on posts. Both Facebook and CNN did not share details of the discussions that led to CNN’s decision.Nearly two-thirds of Australia’s 25 million population is on Facebook, it is a central channel for distributing content in Australia. According to a University of Canberra report, a third of the country’s population used Facebook to source news in 2021.
Matt Collins, a prominent defamation lawyer said, “The fact that a foreign outlet like CNN is pulling out shows the degree of concern that Australia’s laws have not kept up with the pace of technological change.”
He further added, CNN would have no equivalent exposure in the United States and relatively little exposure in Britain or other English-speaking countries like New Zealand.