Facebook to restore news in Australia

Hong Kong (CNN Business)CNN says it will no longer publish content to Facebook in Australia. The decision comes after the country’s highest court ruled that media companies are liable for comments people post under articles on the platform.

Earlier this month, the High Court of Australia dismissed an argument brought by three major Australian news organizations that they could not be held responsible for comments people post on their Facebook (FB) news pages. The news outlets had appealed a lower court ruling.
After that ruling, CNN approached Facebook and asked if the tech firm would “support CNN and other publishers by disabling the comment functionality on their platform in Australia,” a CNN spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Facebook “chose not to do so.”

    “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,” the CNN spokesperson said, adding that the media outlet will continue to publish on its own platforms in Australia.

      Facebook does allow people and publishers with Pages to turn off comments to posts, or otherwise limit the ability for people to comment to selected Pages and profiles — a feature the company announced in March.

      In this case, CNN asked Facebook to offer a Page-wide setting to turn off comments in Australia, according to a CNN source. Instead, Facebook provided instructions for how the media organization could disable comments post by post.
      What Australia's new law might mean for the news you see in the future

      A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the company supports the “ongoing reform of Australia’s defamation law framework” and looks forward to “greater clarity and certainty in this area.”
      “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,” the spokesperson said.
      The case the High Court ruled on began with a defamation lawsuit filed by a former detainee in the Australian youth detention system. His treatment at a detention center made him the center of a 2016 abuse scandal, and he later sued Fairfax Media Publications, Nationwide News and Australian News Channel because comments made on their Facebook pages accused him of crimes his attorney says he did not commit.
      The media companies argued that they shouldn’t be held responsible for user comments, appealing that particular issue all the way to the High Court. In its dismissal of the argument brought by the media organizations, the High Court wrote earlier this month that the “appellants’ attempt to portray themselves as passive and unwitting victims of Facebook’s functionality has an air of unreality.”
      “Having taken action to secure the commercial benefit of the Facebook functionality, the appellants bear the legal consequences,” the High Court wrote, adding that the appeals court “was correct to hold that the acts of the appellants in facilitating, encouraging and thereby assisting the posting of comments by the third-party Facebook users rendered them publishers of those comments.”
      The High Court’s ruling did not resolve the underlying defamation case against the publishers, which has since returned to the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

        It’s been a contentious year for Australia and Big Tech. In February, Facebook suddenly blocked people from seeing or sharing news in the country after months of tension with the Australian government, which had proposed legislation that would force tech platforms to pay news publishers for content.
        Facebook eventually restored news pages in Australia after the government agreed on changes to the planned media code. The tech company said those changes would allow it to retain greater control over what appears on its platform.
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