LSA Conference 2023
Examining Australia’s Uniform Defamation Laws using the lenses of law reform, technology, human rights and case law arising from social media platforms
Education Manager Justine Hanks presented at the NSW Legal Studies Association Conference 2023 on Defamation, Law Reform and Social Media.
The presentation is based on her paper ‘Defamation law reform and social media: What happens on the internet stays on the internet?’ where she looked at the history of social media and defamation in Australia, as well as the law reform that has occurred to regulate online behaviour.
Legal Briefs Article
Defamation law reform and social media: What happens on the internet stays on the internet?
Law reform and technological developments move at distinctly different speeds, creating challenges for legislators worldwide. In Australia, social media interactions have increased that gap due to the inability of the Universal Defamation Law (UDL), the Defamation Act 2005, to effectively regulate the wide and rapid dissemination of defamatory online commentary, mostly due to its foundations in historical case law and legislation created in pre-internet times.
This is making defamation litigants increasingly reliant on the creation of case law to regulate online behaviour, as evidenced in cases such as Voller, BeautyFULL and Burrows, expanding the role of the courts in the law-making process. In particular, gaps in legislation have forced the courts to redefine the key concept of who is considered a publisher, and what the meaning of new communication methods, such as emoji’s, are, creating potential issues of inequity and fairness, a theme that will continue the more new, untested challenges arise before the courts. Law reform is needed to assign appropriate responsibility to parties that create defamatory content, enabling plaintiffs to seek remedy more directly and reducing cases before the Courts.
To aid discussion, the paper includes 4 interesting cases on:
- Whether social media pages are considered ‘publishers’ of content (Voller)
- Is it defamatory if the message is disappearing such as Snapchat? (BeautyFULL)
- Could the use of emojis be defamatory? 🤐😂👻(Burrows)
- Whether comments in groups chats could be held as defamatory?
The paper also includes classroom activities for Legal Studies students.
Supplementary ZOOM Session
Justine will be running an additional 1 hour explainer session on Tuesday 21 March at 7:30pm via ZOOM on Defamation and Law Reform.
The Rule of Law Education Centre has created Posters to be used on Smartboards and a paper copy was provided to teachers attending the Conference. All of the Rule of Law Posters can be found at our website https://www.ruleoflaw.org.au/education/infographics/