Australia's Highest Court Holds Media Outlets Financially Liable for Trolls and Shitposters

Here’s why Section 230 is so important.


Australia's highest court has upheld a controversial and potentially destructive ruling that media outlets are legally liable for defamatory statements posted by online commenters on Facebook, a decision that could result in massive amounts of online censorship out of fear of lawsuits.

The case revolves around a television program from 2016 on Australia's ABC TV (no relation to America's ABC network) about the mistreatment of youths in Australia's jail system. Footage of Dylan Voller in a restraining chair was part of the coverage. When media outlets covered this program and posted links to the coverage on Facebook, users made comments about Voller, and this prompted Voller to sue the media outlets. The comments were defamatory, Voller claimed, and he argued that the media outlets themselves were responsible for publishing them.

The media outlets countered that, no, they were not the publishers of third-party comments on Facebook and were not responsible for what they said. The outlets have been appealing to the courts to toss out the lawsuits, and they've been losing.

Reason first reported on this case in 2020 as it worked its way up through the courts, and Wednesday's decision from the High Court of Australia is the final stop: The country's top justices determined that media outlets in the country are, indeed, publishers of the comments that users post on Facebook under stories that they link.

The logic here is absolutely terrible and destructive. Facebook has control over the tools for managing comments on media pages. The media outlets themselves do not, and they can't "turn off" commenting on their Facebook pages. They do have the power to delete comments after the fact or use filtering tools that target keywords (to stop people from making profane or obscene comments) and can block individual users from the page.

Using these tools to try to prevent defamatory comments requires constant monitoring of the media outlet's Facebook page and would demand that moderators be so agile as to remove potentially defamatory content the moment it appears before anybody else could see it. Nevertheless, the justices concluded that this is enough control over the comments for media outlets to be considered publishers. Two of the justices were very blunt that simply participating on Facebook made Fairfax Media Publications a publisher of the comments:

In sum, each appellant intentionally took a platform provided by another entity, Facebook, created and administered a public Facebook page, and posted content on that page. The creation of the public Facebook page, and the posting of content on that page, encouraged and facilitated publication of comments from third parties. The appellants were thereby publishers of the third-party comments.

Except, of course, that the extent to which media outlets may monitor or control third-party comments is completely in the hands of Facebook. Facebook decides how much a media outlet can block comments or users or whether people can comment at all.

Not all of the judges agreed. Justice James Edelman dissented from the other judges and noted the potentially dire consequences of this decision:

Merely allowing third-party access to one's Facebook page is, of itself, insufficient to justify a factual conclusion that the Facebook page owner participated in the publication of all the third-party comments posted thereafter. Were it not so, all Facebook page owners, whether public or private, would be publishers of third-party comments posted on their Facebook pages, even those which were unwanted, unsolicited and entirely unpredicted. Indeed, it might extend to cases where a Facebook page is hacked and then has posted on it entirely unwelcome, uninvited and vile defamatory comments, whether by the hacker or in response to a post made by the hacker. It might also render Facebook itself, at common law, the publisher of all posts made on Facebook.

It is easy to assume, as these other justices apparently have, that such a decision could not possibly cause a disastrous amount of online censorship because media outlets should know when a controversial story might lead to defamatory comments. The judges actually note this in the ruling. They seem to think that this is only an issue with certain types of stories and that the appearance of defamatory comments can be predicted in advance.

This is complete rubbish, and anybody with any experience on social media already knows this. Trolls, scammers, and spammers range far and wide (that's the point of them), and it's incredibly naive to think that a story that has no controversial elements can't end up with third parties posting defamatory nonsense under them.

Edelman has the right of it here, and it's why Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, which generally protects websites and social media platforms (and you) from liability for comments published by others, is so important. It's not just to protect media outlets from being held liable for comments from trolls. It's to allow social media participation to even happen at all. Some large media outlets or companies might be able to afford around-the-clock moderation to attempt to catch problems. But even if they could, let's be clear that they're going to avoid as much risk as possible and delete any comment that has a whiff of controversy. Why would they allow it to stand if it could get them sued?

But smaller companies and outlets—and there's no reason to think this ruling applies only to media outlets—will either have to hope Facebook gives them better tools to control who posts on their page or just not have social media presences at all.

It's a terrible ruling. The only positive here is that the courts have not yet ruled on whether the contested comments are actually defamatory. Subsequent rulings may clear Fairfax. But if courts decide that these random comments were defamatory, the downstream consequences will be disastrous for free speech. Expect to see commenting start to disappear across media platforms.

NEXT: There's Little Rationale for Masking School Kids, but Teachers Unions Are Demanding It

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Thank Fauci we have the Section 230 Superprecedent protecting the rights of multibillion dollar multinational corporations to flagrantly disregard every single precept of contract law in existence and assist the government in policing the peasants.

    1. You just hurt My Precious Baby Feelings, shitposter! I am taking you to “civil” court, and I am asking for $3,451,299.31!!!

      (Well, my slime-sucking lawyers and I know darned well that you don’t have “deep pockets”, so we will go after instead).

      Prepare for all comments to cost $35 per word, to cover armies of compliance lawyers!

      1. Common sense would indicate that Reason should not be liable for what SQRLSY or shrike or JesseAz posts IF they aren’t randomly taking down other people’s posts (that don’t meet the standard of illegal). It would also indicate that words on a screen don’t mean shit, and therefore your feefees getting hurt doesn’t mean shit in a court of law.

        Now, if you were to say that you don’t trust the courts to use common sense and uphold the 1A rights of ordinary citizens or corporations who don’t moderate (or moderate actual illegal posts), I think that is a valid concern, seeing as common sense seems to be in short supply these days.

        Oh, and way to not address any of Moonrocks points.

        1. Why is that common sense? Common sense to me is that if a company wants to create, say, a forum only for libertarians, they should be able to ban-hammer and censor non libertarian users and discussions. Likewise, common sense to me is that if a user libels another user, that isn’t the platform’s fault. The two issues are completely orthogonal.

          SQRLSY, annoying as he is, is completely right here. This isn’t going to have the effect you want. Rather than companies being looser on their moderation, they will likely become even more strict or abandon their comments all together.

          1. “Editor’s Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation.”

            Maybe it’s just me, but this should be the assumption for any website that allows users to post content/comments. Because the website isn’t the one creating the content/comments. Preet should have been laughed out of court for ridiculous charges.

            And I actually don’t disagree that if we started up, exclusively for libertarians, we should absolutely be able to ban hammer whomever we want.

            On the other hand, if we started up and billed ourselves as an open forum for all viewpoints, but then proceeded to ban hammer anyone who didn’t have libertarian views, people should rightly criticize us for not living up to free speech ideas. If we went a step further and only banned leftist who called for the death of the bourgeois, but kept conservatives who called for the death of the socialists, that would absolutely lead people to believe that we support one but not the other. I think, as many see it, the social media companies (in particular) are engaged in that last scenario, sometimes at the behest of the, but completely shielded from any consequences for their actions. Hence the pushback on 230.

            I don’t disagree, if it’s gotten rid of, most places will just shut down comments because that will be easier than fighting their urge to control the narrative.

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        2. “…flagrantly disregard every single precept of contract law in existence…”

          Obey the contract as written, that is all! See Reason’s warnings above (not changed in years!) “We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time.”

          This is typical! If don’t like it when your post gets taken down, don’t post here! AND ask for your money (all $0,000.00 of it) back!

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      2. The Reason comments section will be gone the second the people who want to destroy Section 230 succeed.

        1. Section 230 doesn’t apply anywhere on the planet except the US.

          But regardless, you also may have noticed that many media companies of done just that… even while section 230 remains in force. I wonder why that might be.

          1. by ‘done just that’ I mean remove their comment sections.

            1. I think it is because “the process is the punishment”. You (web site owner) get sued in clear violation of Section 230? You STILL need to defend yourself in court, from a baseless lawsuit!

              From above…
              “In July, Remington offered a $33 million settlement. The plaintiffs have yet to respond to the offer, the Post says.”

              Remington is being held responsible for the doings of a gone-bonkers user of its product… Classic “Punish Party A for the doings of Party B”. This injustice being applied to guns will screw us innocent gun owners (in violation of our 2A rights, guns and ammo will start costing bazillions of dollars from us, to pay for all the lawsuits).

              Even if Remington is found innocent (in accordance with 2A), they still had to shell out for lawyers!

              Tearing down Section 230 will enable greedy lawyers to do the same with our 1A rights! They will do to words (more than they are already) what they are doing to guns right now!

              1. I mean, the courts could always say “Sorry, that’s not how the legal system works.”?

                1. Yes, this! It is what I would dearly love to see, far more often!

            2. Sorry, I’m not seeing the contradiction.

            3. Hey now let’s be fair only conservative websights are forced to shut off their comments. See the federalist, now when people on NBC rant about how people need to kill Republicans that’s okay because of the (D) shield

        2. I’m gonna cut off my nose to teach my face a lesson!

    2. It’s interesting that a “libertarian” publication appears to have no stance on Australia building concentration camps, but is outraged by corporate liability.

      1. Maybe the author ran out of room?

  2. C’mon Shack, can we at least agree that there’s a difference between the “concept of a liability shield” and “Section 230 as written”? The libertarian debate is not about whether platforms should get a liability shield. The debate is if they should get the shield AND be allowed to edit user content willy-nilly.

    Supporting the former does not imply supporting the latter.

    1. Hip-hip-hooray for Section 230!

      Admittedly, we do need a “Section 230” for hardcopy rags as well. Otherwise, we punish “Party A” for the writings of “Party B”, which is a disgusting injustice.

      1. The liability line should be amplification – that’s what publisher liability was supposed to capture.

        If a Facebook user accuses you of being a murderer on their wall, Facebook shouldn’t be liable for libel.

        If Facebook publishes and distributes one million copies of a brochure showing “their five favorite profiles” and it includes that wall post accusing you of being a murderer, Facebook should be liable for libel.

        I agree that there should be a liability shield for non-internet forums, but traditional publishing is going to look like the sort of amplification that should lead to liability.

    2. Indeed it doesn’t. Like Shackelford, many here purposely conflate the two and ignore that [contrary to the article and SQRLSY], 230 protects nobody but a handful of billionaires.

      This is why people like me who have online sales are faced with a choice of no reviews, reviews we cannot edit, or can be held liable for reviews we don’t remove. It doesn’t apply to Amazon either, which is why they look at every damn review and have recently removed any and all responses to those reviews. Go ahead and try to make a health claim on Amazon for a product that can’t claim it for themselves. It will be rejected.

      I can’t make health claims about my products without FDA clearance, but I have no control over whether a reviewer might say that a product of mine cured/prevented the flu for example. If I operated under 230 however, it would allow me to leave such comments made by others while deleting any challenge to that and basically be nothing more than a work-around claim for things I otherwise cannot claim.

      People could sue me for neglecting to remove those reviews and the FDA would own me because I let only those reviews stand. This is why I choose to have comment plugins that I have no control over what any claims people make. Sure, one guy could say that the product cured his flu, but someone else could also say the product is garbage. Therefore, I avoid liability that comes with being a publisher.

    3. There really isn’t. Here’s section 230’s key provision:

      “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

      That’s it. The entire no-publisher-liability provision. Unlike most federal law, Section 230 is elegant.

      1. And here’s the liability shield for takedowns (which is what the screeching Trumpkins no-longer-on-Facebook are more upset about):

        “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
        (A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected”

        The “…” step they haven’t thought about though is what happens assuming they gutted that provision. They sue Facebook for… being unfair to them? For *Facebook* allegedly violating Facebook’s completely one sided terms of service, which gives users no such cause of action, let alone a means to win it?

        It’s stupidity. And more importantly, it’s stupidity that affects me and threatens the Internet as we know it. Just because Facebook and Twitter are big enough to survive a swarm of litigious morons doesn’t mean millions of other threatened forums are.

        I get to power wash your excrement off my bulletin board. That’s how property rights work.

  3. They’re not wrong, actually.

    The whole point of posting to facebook is to generate commentary and controversy. If they are going to generate revenue from the activity, they need to take responsibility for it.

    Australia can change their law.

    Or media can actively delete all comments.

    Or they can ask facebook for a method of turning off comments (GLWT).

    Or they can just not post to facebook.

  4. Do any of the Commonwealths actually respect the idea of freedom of speech? I know the UK itself doesn’t.

    1. No country on the globe has any explicitly defined right of free speech. It is either ‘implied’ or at best, there is a general mention of ‘freedom of expression’ but always with caveats and exceptions for emergencies or where governments “see fit” to restrict it.

      1. And this is one of the things meant by “American exceptionalism” but the Readon staff tends to get all twisted up at anything that smacks of national pride that they tend to to dismiss the term out of hand.

        1. When you’re done sucking Trump off let us know.

  5. Section 230 was around long before “social media”, and frankly I’m more than happy to see those sites disappear. This obeisance to trillion dollar companies and amoral billionaires by faux libertarians is disgusting.

    1. Shut up you fucking socialist asshole. It’s people like you that are responsible for 100 million deaths.

  6. Hah… the comments from the Twitter-is-suppressing-my-free-speech crowd should be fucking delicious on this one. Carve out those exceptions, right-wing trolls.

    1. The White House is recommending that Twitter ban accounts posting wrongspeak.

    2. MOST DELICIOUS today is that Chipman has been dumped. And there might be some delicious common carrier law on the horizon as well. 🙂

  7. This actually shows the issue with section 230. Australia’s law and other laws like it will force Facebook to change at the point of a gun what every user on the planet is allowed to post. But 230 means that even though Facebook will be acting as a foreign government agent, American citizens cannot sue for having their rights violated.

    1. What American’s right is being violated here?

  8. Edelman has the right of it here, and it’s why Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, which generally protects websites and social media platforms (and you) from liability for comments published by others, is so important. It’s not just to protect media outlets from being held liable for comments from trolls. It’s to allow social media participation to even happen at all. Some large media outlets or companies might be able to afford around-the-clock moderation to attempt to catch problems. But even if they could, let’s be clear that they’re going to avoid as much risk as possible and delete any comment that has a whiff of controversy. Why would they allow it to stand if it could get them sued?

    There’s a lot of contradiction here. In particular:

    Some large media outlets or companies might be able to afford around-the-clock moderation to attempt to catch problems. But even if they could, let’s be clear that they’re going to avoid as much risk as possible and delete any comment that has a whiff of controversy. Why would they allow it to stand if it could get them sued?

    Let’s take a walk down reality lane for a moment.

    Large companies CURRENTLY CAN afford and DO engage in a massive, ’round-the-clock moderation paradigm, and they currently avoid as much risk as possible by removing anything they find controversial. Or do I live in a different world here?

    And it still doesn’t protect them because section 230 doesn’t apply globally to these global multinational media corporations outside of the united states.

    This ruling isn’t so much terrible as it is expected.

    Welcome to the globalist neo-corporatist state, Scott.

    1. They do not. They make attempts at real-time moderation, but cannot keep up with the scale of posts coming in every second, and, so, do a poor job of moderation.

      1. I never suggested they did a “good job” of moderation, I merely said they are doing massive, ’round-the-clock moderation and shun anything remotely controversial.

        It’s clear, by their own admission that they do a shitty job of moderation, and it’s why Zuckerberg no longer wants to do it- which is why he and his zillion dollar organization is demanding new, updated internet regs.

        1. New internet regs that will keep Facebook and Twitter around, but act as a vibranium shield against new social media companies. You know that tiny mom-n-pop conservative sites? Yeah, outlawed. That’s the goal here. Why you would want this is beyond me.

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  10. We can trace all of Australia’s problem down to the simple fact that the people have no means of shooting members of their tyrannical government right in the fucking face.

    1. Many people do have that means. You can kill anyone if you are willing to die yourself. Obviously the Australians with means have decided their life is worth more than dying for this hill. History is replete with those who too late wished there was one more hill to die for.

      1. So you are saying Australians have decided to be defeated, evolutionarily downscale, subservient dead ends of humanity?

        Because the freedom of such non-individuals is rather delicious to watch when it is in the process of dying, you know.

  11. Good job Drumpf-suckers. Your ivermectin “cure” is forcing Oklahoma hospitals to turn away all the gun shot victims because of overdosing.

    1. Pretty sure Reason already covered that and found it to be a steaming pile of bull, like anything else from The Rolling Stone.

      1. The Rolling Stone posted an update or retraction, as I understand. When is Der TrumpfenFuhrer going to post an update or retraction on His Big (election fraud) Lie?

        Rolling Stone forced to issue an ‘update’ after viral hospital ivermectin story turns out to be false
        The Northeastern Hospital System released a statement contradicting the story

        1. When is Der TrumpfenFuhrer going to post an update or retraction on His Big (election fraud) Lie?

          The fact that you even asked the question proves that you voted for Biden, you regularly masturbate to video of the peaceful tourist Ashli Babbitt being murdered in premeditated cold blood, you attended every riot on Portland, you want to force everyone to be vaccinated against their will, and you eat puppies for breakfast.

          You, sir, are a terrible person.

          1. Don’t fear the revolt!

            All our times have come
            Here, but now they’re gone
            Seasons don’t fear the revolt
            Nor do the wind, the sun, or the rain
            (We can be like they are)
            Come on, baby
            (Don’t fear the revolt)
            Baby, take my hand
            (Don’t fear the revolt)
            We’ll be able to fly
            Baby, I’m your man
            La, la la, la la
            La, la la, la la
            Valentine is done
            Here but now they’re gone
            Horst Wessel and Ashli Babbs
            Are together in eternity
            (Horst Wessel and Ashli Babbitt)


            1. Fuck off. I like that song.

              1. OK then, how about this one?

                This (below) poetry inspired by the REAL facts of a REAL nightmare!
                Trump’s Big Lie and Hitler’s: Is this how America’s slide into totalitarianism begins?

                “The Sound Of Despots”

                Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again
                Because a nightmare in jackboots, left its seeds while I was sleeping
                And the nightmare that was planted in my brain, still remains
                Within the sound of despots

                In nightmares I ran alone, narrow streets of cobblestone
                Neath the halo of a streetlamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp
                When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of an orange blight, split the night
                And touched the sound of despots

                And in their naked greed I saw, millions of sheeple, maybe more
                Sheeple talking without speaking, sheeple hearing without listening
                Sheeple’s thoughts, sanity never shared, and no one dared
                To question the despots!

                Fool, said I, you do not know, despots, like a cancer, grows
                Hear my words and I might teach you, take my arms then I might reach you
                But my words, like silent raindrops fell, and echoed in the wells of despots

                And the morons bowed and prayed to the orange god they’d made
                And the sign flashed its warning in the words that it was forming
                And the sign said the words of the despots are written in the Biggest Lies
                And tenement halls, and shouted, in the sounds of despots

                1. Just, no.

                  I’m not your audience. I don’t know who your audience is, but it isn’t me.


                  Just fucking no. I will not read that.

                  1. LOL sqrl has such an inflated sense of self-importance. It shows when he acts like his little “website” is actually on par with facebook or twitter when it comes to reaching people, which causes him to argue that people just shouldn’t whine and make their own twitter. But it all stems from him being unable to process proportions and tones of grey (using UK English for a reason). He is a typical binary mind. Restricted for life.

                    1. Now ***IF*** I was a whiner & crybaby, pro-Grow-and-Grow-and-GROW, Government Almighty, kinda prima donna, like WAAAAY too many of the commenters around here, I’d write…
                      “You’re CENSORING Meeee!!! THIS is why we need to TEAR DOWN Section 230, and have Government Almighty FORCE people to tolerate, if not read, ALL of my posts!”

                      If only Our Lord and Populist Savior, Donald the Magnificent, had NOT been dethroned, NONE of this would be happening! We’re badly screwed for another 4 years!

                      To at least SLIGHTLY improve things, may I humbly suggest:
                      All aspiring GOOD Trumplings should have embedded brain scanners with wireless links installed. Whenever they think BAD thoughts, such as even thinking about attempting to deliberately manipulate stock prices, their shock collars are activated, and a shoulder-mounted speaker announces, loudly, not just for the good-Trumpling-wannabe, but for public shaming also, of random passers-by, “BAD thought detected! Ah-oooOOOOgah!!! Ah-oooOOOOgah!!! BAD thought detected! What Would Our Lord and Savior Trump do? Trump-zone violation detected!”

                    2. Lol triggered it. Was kinda easy. 🙂

                    3. Didn’t read it btw. But the way it looks from a glance alone with all the caps and exclamation marks reveals delicious amounts of butthurt. 😉

                    4. 666.5.56.666 refutes stuff by not reading it! Typical of TrumpTurds!

                      666.5.56.666 has NOT read ALL of the books, news rags, and web sites in the universe by now! So 666.5.56.666 can refute just about everything! 666.5.56.666 clearly knows just about everything!

                    5. LMAO so triggered 😀
                      Sorry dude, but there’s also nothing to refute in your posts. All there is is the whiny, defeated, angry stomping of someone who is insanely butthurt and triggered lmao 😀 😀 😀

      2. PS, given my choices, I’d rather believe some false shit about ivermectin, than have the Big Lie leading to the replacement of democracy with mobocracy! No longer “the most votes, wins”, but, “He who whines and cries, and makes up lies, the best, wins”!

        1. I’m shocked you’re minimizing lefties lying.

        2. The fact that Trump lost is proof that the election results are fraudulent. It’s right there. Just look. He lost. That means the election is a lie. Because he was supposed to win, just like Hillary was supposed tow in in 2016.

          Once again conservatives show themselves to be just no different than the people they hate.

          1. When you have to miscast the arguments and the evidence into an unrecognizable strawmen just so you can knock them down, you might just be a faggot.

            Everyone point and laugh at the faggot.

            1. Hey faggotty faggot homo!

              Poopity poopy poop head!

              Nanny nanny boo boo!

              Is there an adult in the room?

          2. That’s not the argument anyone here has made since November sarc. But you go right ahead and light those mean strawmen on fire.

    2. all the gun shot victims lol

    3. Holy shit did you actually post this today, like three days after everybody knew it was fake?

      1. It almost caught me, then I saw it was spelt Liarson.

  12. The CDC’s website, definition of terms surrounding ‘immunity, vaccine’ etc.

    Definition of Terms
    Immunity: Protection from an infectious disease. If you are immune to a disease, you can be exposed to it without becoming infected.

    Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

    Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce protection from a specific disease.

    Immunization: A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.

    This represents a change that has been up on the CDC website for a very long time. Web archive, August 26th:

    Definition of Terms
    Immunity: Protection from an infectious disease. If you are immune to a disease, you can be exposed to it without becoming infected.

    Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

    Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.

    Immunization: A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.

    Tell me the CDC is gaslighting us.

    1. the CDC is gaslighting us.

  13. This is exactly why Section 230 exists. And it’s why certain segments of both the Left and the Right want to do away with Section 230: So they can sue big social media companies for user posts that Josh Hawley and Elizabeth Warren don’t like.

    Most Americans don’t realize how good we have it here in terms of the First Amendment. Not just social media, but the ability to be protected for calling a politician an ass. There are cases in some countries where merely calling a hoax a hoax can land you in court for defamation. And the powers that be that want to make us more like Denmark or Hungary see the First Amendment as a blight.

    1. I’d argue that the third party liability shield concerning other people’s speech is inherent in the First Amendment. Section 230 codifies (in a narrow industry) what the courts should have held on their own as applies to all privately-owned forums in this country.

      Sure, if you, the forum owner, amplifies harmful (that is, within the narrow exception to the First Amendment for libel/smut/etc) third party speech, something akin to current publisher liability could apply, but the mere fact of its existence in your forum should never be a basis for liability anywhere the First Amendment applies.

  14. This isn’t just because of Section 230. It’s also because Australia doesn’t have the First Amendment. Our social norms evolved under the influence of the First Amendment, and our laws evolved to be in harmony with the First Amendment. That being said, Section 230 is an extension of that. In order for private companies to be free to host the free speech of free private citizens, it is necessary for the hosts not to be subject to frivolous lawsuits,

    By “frivolous”, I mean when the plaintiff sues a third party host for something the host never wrote and never said. By the the admission of the plaintiff–the host never wrote or said the defamatory statement!

    Most of the attack on Section 230 is about rationalizing–rather than justifying. The people who are opposed to Section 230 are mostly looking to rationalize their hatred for the social media platforms themselves–and the reasons they hate these social media platforms are both understandable and well supported. If those of us who are defending Section 230 were more open about the fact that we’re making a libertarian argument like the one that protects the free speech rights of racists, the right of terrorists not to be tortured, the right of convicted rapists not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment, etc., we’d probably be far more persuasive. The progressive mindset has infected an awful lot of libertarians though–imagining that everything needs to be rationalized in terms of the greater good.

    As libertarians, we understand that we’re not really sticking up for racists, terrorists, or convicted rapists–we’re sticking up for our own First Amendment rights, our own Fifth Amendment rights, and our own Eighth Amendment rights, etc. But it’s hard to highlight that real separation between the bad guys, on the one hand, and our rights, on the other, in the minds of the unpersuaded when we’re reluctant to heap scorn on the bad guys. Because we support our constitutional rights, doesn’t mean we need to pretend that racists, terrorists, and convicted rapists are nice people. In fact, there’s probably no better way to harm the case for our constitutional rights than to pretend that racists, terrorists, and convicted rapists aren’t terrible people in the name of defending our constitutional rights.

    So, let’s take a deep breath and admit the truth: Facebook, Google, and Twitter are a disgusting, horrible, blight on American society. They are the enemies of facts, logic, decorum, free expression, and free thought, and they’re the enemies of the American people. What they choose to do with their property rights is repugnant and should be condemned by honest libertarians everywhere.

    In addition to everything else that’s awful about them, they openly discriminate against one side of the political spectrum, and they’re doing the government’s dirty work in stifling speech that contradicts government bureaucracies like the CDC, the NIH, etc., etc. Facebook, Google, and Twitter should be abhorred and hated by the American people for all the damage they do to our society, and there is no good reason why libertarians shouldn’t be openly critical of them.

    Oh yeah, and Facebook, Google, and Twitter should also be protected from necessarily frivolous lawsuits (see definition in bold above) for speech they host on their platforms. And that’s not because any of us do or should give a shit about them. It’s because we should care about our own property rights, our own free speech rights, and our own freedom not to be taken to court over things we never did, never wrote, and never said–not even according to the people who are suing us. Freedom and justice requires us to tolerate them–despite our futhermocking awful they are in every way.

    1. I may have forgotten to turn a bold tag off after the definition of “frivolous lawsuit”.

      Is it possible to hold a fund raiser–just for a preview button?

      1. I would contribute to such a fund.

    2. This is what you get when your constitution does not enumerate the rights of the people.

      1. Both England and Australia have had cases were doctors were sued for calling a quack a quack. Both were homeopathy related as I recall.

        That doesn’t happen in the US largely in part to the First Amendment. One can call a politician an asshole and get away with it. One can call a nutter a nutter and get away with it. Not so in most parts of the world. We Americans don’t realize how good we got it, and we seem eager to toss it all away.

        1. Politicians in Australian and Canada sue media outlets for writing things about them, and it isn’t uncommon.

          We don’t have any of that in the USA, and it’s because of the First Amendment.

  15. If Section 230 is supposed protect platforms from liability for their comments sections, why are they policing their user’s content as if they were liable?

    1. Because they’re under imminent threat of antitrust actions to break up their companies, and the Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House. In October of 2020, the Democrats put out a plan to break each and every one of them up, citing their tolerance for “misinformation” as a symptom of a lack of competition, and then Biden made the lead author of that report chair of the FTC–that’s suing to break them up. They’re doing whatever the Democratic party says because the Democratic party and the government are now one in the same thing. Section 230 won’t do anything for their case on antitrust grounds, and they fear being broken up and prevented from making future acquisitions more than anything. Until the situation changes, they need to do what they’re told.

    2. They are multinational companies.
      They want to have a good website.
      Their management has a liberal bias.
      Their employees have a liberal bias.
      They are worried about Section 230 being taken away, or other possible impositions by the US government, or state governments.

      All possible reasons.

      1. Yes, this is all true!

        Sad to say, silly people will take all of that and then argue “so this is why we need to take away Section 230”! Somebody is threatening to take away Section 230! So let’s kill Section 230!

        For the exact same reason, we could argue that we need to take away our 1A rights!

      2. You forgot this part:

        Their liberal “bias” is so strong that it causes them to actively try to rig elections in favor of their side by filtering information and modulating political feedbacks in nominally private, but quasi-public environments.

          Sidney Powell Says She’s Not Guilty of Defamation Because ‘No Reasonable Person’ Would Have Believed Her ‘Outlandish’ Election Conspiracy Theory
          Which particular lies are you wanting to hear and believe today,666.5.56.666< Evil One Power-Luster-Liar?

          1. LOL it’s just in plain sight for anyone who can think in tones of gray instead of just black or white. It’s really that easy: They suppress certain streams of information while amplifying others. If you assume any margin of influence at all, that was probably enough to tilt the GA elections. End of story. All you gotta do is understand a little bit about probabilities.

            And of course they would and will rig elections whenever they can. I am not talking about direct ballot manipulation. It’s way simpler than that. Your brain is just too weak.

              Trump’s Big Lie and Hitler’s: Is this how America’s slide into totalitarianism begins?

              The above is mostly strictly factual, with very little editorializing. When I post it, the FACTS never get refuted… I only get called names. But what do you expect from morally, ethically, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt Trumpturds?

              1. LOL so triggered and butthurt omg youre being delicious 😀 😀 😀

                Also, like sarc, I am not your audience. I won’t click your links. I barely scan the angrily stomping, defeated messes that you call comments.

                Therefore, not sure what you are trying to say, but I’m not the only one who sees it this way. Diane Reynolds (Paul), very moderate person in here (as opposed to you, for example) agrees with me. It’s tiny nudges that likely have an impact. His comment is here:

                Apparently the Time Magazine sees it that way too.

    3. If you want anything constructive out of a comments section you have to police it for content, otherwise it’s going to get drowned out in spam and trolls. You don’t even have to inquire into liability to explain it.

  16. It’s screwy because one country’s ruling is going to affect the entire world. I suppose companies with no presence in Australia at all will be unaffected, which is something, and will protect a lot of small companies. But it seems this ruling would also mean individuals would be responsible for all replies to their posts. Why risk posting anything at that point?

    If this becomes a trend, commenting will definitely be over, and so too then would social media be over. Or maybe just public social media. Perhaps private groups would be okay, since you’re not precisely “publicly” defaming someone. Who knows. It’s definitely extremely bad news though.

    1. Small companies rely on people to host their servers. People hosting servers are often international. So they’ll need to call in line as well.

  17. What is wrong with Australia?!

    Did they just wake up one day and determine that the pesky freedom thing just ain’t for them?

    1. I am enjoying this a lot. I remember my friends from Australia and others who have been so outspoken against gun rights and growing a general spine as a public against governments. It is deeply delicious.

  18. Responsibility is commensurate with authority.

    Your inalienable right to free speech is your authority.

    When media platforms take responsibility for your speech you lose your authority to speak.

  19. If you are looking for an indie publisher, you should try I sent them my manuscript a few weeks ago. They are small and new, but they took a lot of time sending me feedback on the chapters I sent them. They just asked to see my full manuscript!! Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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