Could your doofus followers land you in court?

In a society that has forgotten how to think, use manners and apply common sense the logical thing to do is regulate.

Provocative statement?

Well be careful what you say about it or you may just be sued (or I may as the publisher of the post hosting your comments).


The Australian newspaper (6 July 2019) writes “former inmate of the Northern Territory Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, Dylan Voller has sued three media companies over 10 anonymous and potentially defamatory posts made about him between 2016 and 2017 in the Facebook comments section of the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, the Centralian Advocate, Sky News Australia and The Bolt Report.”

After initial hearings the judge has given the green light for the case to go ahead.

The long and short of this world first case is that the media outlets have been sued for being the publisher as opposed to the author of the comments.

In a world where anyone can establish a public following equipped with the resulting likes, shares, comments – good, bad and ugly, a world where some individuals have larger followings (and in some cases revenues) than traditional media outlets – what constitutes ‘media’ and what does not? Where does the ruling begin and end?

To me this smacks of an experience I had with an insurance broker way back when Public Liability insurance became a ‘thing’. Had I purchased his product for my event he offered, as a special bonus to turn up at the event and break someone’s arm. Then (he told me) we could go halvies in the claim. Needless to say my contempt of public liability insurance hasn’t shifted far from this initial conversation.

Certainly, Mr. Voller’s case is extreme as were the comments made on the sites in question. Perhaps, the media giants could have taken greater measures to protect Mr. Voller from such scrutiny as the stories were published. And it’s important to note that the comments in question were deemed to be of a defamatory nature – i.e. statements that have not been proven to be true.

Think this will never affect you?

It already has.

With regulation comes compliance. With compliance comes rules and with rules comes a restriction on sparky things like collaboration, creativity and freedom of speech.

Think big media is going to employ someone just to check and moderate comments on the grounds of their suitability in current law? Think again. The much more obvious and cost-effective approach is to cut or limit commenting.

Think this won’t have an impact as it filters down through gossip channels, narrow minds and rule following public who don’t understand the critical point is in the ‘defamatory’ nature of the comments – as opposed to the general sharing of nastiness? Not likely. What is more likely will be that people either switch off commenting or jump off social – just to be safe.

And if that still doesn’t bother you just imagine a world without freedom of speech and a variety of opinion. That.

Let’s face it, it’s not hard to post a derogatory message about someone on someone else’s social media account. And assuming we are now all responsible for the things the less enlightened among our following may say in response to our witty and provocative statements we have choices;

  1. Turn off all comments.
  2. Regulate your own comments ensuring a vomit-worthy trail of light, light and light. – even someone as revoltingly positive as me can see the problem with this.
  3. Get off social media entirely and return to sharing your opinion in closed rooms or on the back of toilet doors.
  4. Remove and block the doofus candidates of your ‘friend’ and ‘follower’ population.
  5. Politely remind the keyboard warriers in your midst to tone it down (actually I don’t recommend you try that as a preferred option unless you want to deal with days and days of vial dribble in response to your polite shooshing).

Personally, I’m secretly preparing a backup plan for our pleasant future, just in case I need a few tricks up my sleeve as the polite police take over.

I’m memorising show tunes.

“raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”

This is a case well worth watching. Want to know more?

The Conversation

The Australian (subscription required)


Photo by Jessica To’oto’o on Unsplash

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