CNN is leaving Facebook in Australia, citing libel risks

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The Facebook logo can be seen on their website in an illustration photo taken in Bordeaux, France on February 1, 2017. REUTERS / Regis Duvignau / File Photo

SYDNEY, Sept. 29 (Reuters) – CNN announced that it has ceased publishing articles on Facebook Inc (FB.O) Australian sites, citing a court ruling that publishers are liable for defamation in public comments and the social media company’s refusal to assist in opting out of comments in the country.

The move makes CNN, owned by AT&T Inc (TN), the first major news organization to cease its Facebook presence in Australia since the country’s Supreme Court ruled this month that publishers are legally responsible for comments made this month among the stories to be published – even if the stories themselves weren’t defamatory.

CNN doesn’t play a prominent role in Australian media consumption, but the decision could resonate across the industry if other media outlets follow suit.

Facebook declined a request to help CNN and other publishers disable public comments in the country following the ruling, CNN said.

“We are disappointed that Facebook has again failed to ensure that its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue about current events among its users,” a CNN spokeswoman said in a statement.

She added that CNN will continue to publish content on its own platforms in Australia.

A Facebook spokesman said recent court rulings had shown the need to reform Australia’s defamation law and the company expected “more clarity and security in this area.”

“While it is not our job to give CNN legal advice, we have provided CNN with the latest information on tools we are making available to help publishers manage comments,” the spokesman said.

According to Facebook, there are several functions available to publishers and other users to restrict who can comment on posts. It and CNN did not provide details of the discussions that led to CNN’s decision.

Social media is a key channel for content diffusion in Australia, with around two-thirds of the country’s 25 million residents on Facebook, according to the industry. About a third of the country’s population was using Facebook to get news in 2021, according to a report from the University of Canberra.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Arrangement by Edwina Gibbs

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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