Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: Defamation Down Under

Jen Patja, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, David Rolph
Thursday, September 30, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

Just two days ago, on September 28, CNN announced that it was turning off access to its Facebook pages in Australia. Why would the network cut off Facebook users Down Under?

It’s not a protest of Facebook or… Australians. CNN’s move was prompted by a recent ruling by the High Court of Australia in Fairfax Media and Voller, which held that media companies can be held liable for defamatory statements made by third parties in the comments on their public pages, even if they didn’t know about them. This is a pretty extraordinary expansion of potential liability for organizations that run public pages with a lot of engagement.

On this week’s episode of Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information ecosystem, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with David Rolph, a professor at the University of Sydney Law School and an expert on media law, to understand the ruling and its potential impact. What exactly does Voller mean for media companies with some kind of connection to Australia? What does it mean for you, if someone writes a nasty comment under your Facebook post or your tweet? Why did the court rule the way it did? And why is Australia known as the defamation capital of the world?

Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
David Rolph is a professor at the University of Sydney Law School and an expert on media law.

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