This is an absurd decision by the judge.
Former youth detainee Dylan Voller is suing News Corp, Fairfax Media and Sky News.
Dylan Voller, the Aboriginal man who was shown restrained and wearing a spit hood at age 17 in shocking CCTV footage from an adult prison, has been given the green light to sue media companies over Facebook comments written by their readers.
The landmark decision has been described as a "significant win" for the former youth detainee, and will be met with alarm by media companies wary of being hit with lawsuits over what their readers are writing on social media.
Voller, now 22, spent his teenage years in and out of juvenile detention, and rose to prominence when CCTV footage of his treatment behind bars was aired on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s investigative current affairs program Four Corners in July 2016.
He is suing News Corp, Fairfax Media (now Nine), and the owner of Sky News Australia for defamation over comments on Facebook posts sharing various news stories.
The stories related to various aspects of Voller's life, including the royal commission into children in detention in the Northern Territory, his time in custody and his poetry.
Voller claims a number of comments on the post defamed him by falsely suggesting, among other things, that he "savagely bashed" a Salvation Army officer, causing him serious injury, and that he is a rapist.
These comments were written by readers.
Before Voller's case went to trial, Justice Stephen Rothman considered whether the media companies could be considered liable for the reader comments.
The three companies argued they were not liable during a three-day hearing in February, in which social media managers took the stand and were questioned about how they monitored and moderated Facebook comments.
Rothman ruled in Voller's favour on Monday afternoon, finding that the media companies were the publishers, in a legal sense, of the comments.
The judge wrote that each company had the power to effectively delay reader comments on Facebook and monitor if they were defamatory before "releasing" them to the audience.
This was based on evidence from social media expert Ryan Shelley, who testified that although you can't turn off comments on Facebook posts, you can deploy a "hack" to pre-moderate them....MORE