The company said it wanted to avoid liability for user comments following an Australian court ruling
CNN, AT&T. a unit of Inc. NS
WarnerMedia appears to be the first major US media organization to publicly restrict Australian access to their Facebook pages following a decision this month by the High Court of Australia that allowed news organizations to be legally liable for comments on their Facebook pages. made accountable.
The court ruled that media companies facilitate and encourage users’ comments by creating public Facebook pages and posting content on them. According to the court, media companies are responsible for any defamatory material that appears on them as they are believed to be the publishers of the comments.
Following that decision, CNN asked Facebook whether it would consider helping news organizations disable comments on all of their pages in Australia to avoid potential legal risks, according to a person close to CNN. Facebook declined to disable all comments on CNN’s pages in Australia and instead offered to help CNN disable comments on its posts one by one, the person said.
Ultimately, CNN concluded that managing comments on the posts from each of its accounts was too time-consuming and instead opted to restrict access to its pages in the country, the person said. CNN executives believe Facebook should be responsible for helping publishers comply with the laws that apply to content on its platform, the person said.
“We are disappointed that Facebook has once again failed to ensure that its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue about current events among its users,” a CNN spokesperson said.
In a statement, Facebook said it supported reforming Australia’s defamation laws and said it provided facilities to CNN to handle comments. AT&T earlier this year agreed to sever CNN’s parent WarnerMedia and merge that business with Discovery Inc.
“We continue to provide Australians with a destination for quality journalism, including Facebook News, which we launched in August,” Facebook said.
The owner of the Wall Street Journal has a commercial agreement to supply news through Facebook.
A relatively small portion of CNN’s total online audience comes from Australia. Of the company’s 166 million unique users globally in August, less than 2 million originated in Australia, according to measurement firm comScore. CNN’s website remains accessible in the country—only the major CNN Facebook pages are not promoting their articles.
Benjamin Mullin at [email protected]