If you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ve more than likely come across a troll comment.

The comments can range from harmless to crippling – often having direct impact on a person’s brand, image or self-esteem.

A new Bill proposed by the Coalition aims to help everyday Australians ‘unmask’ those behind the comments in an attempt to combat trolling.  If the Bill is implemented, social media companies like Facebook and Twitter would shoulder more of a legal burden over what is posted to their platform.

The Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill would allow everyday social media users to find the personal details of their trolls easier.  By doing so, it aims to provide users with an easier avenue to pursue legal action – but it raises an important question.  Where does trolling cross the line into defamation?

In a submission to the Parliamentary Committee, ‘Meta’ highlighted several issues with the Bill.  The company, which operates Facebook and Instagram, claimed the legislation was not targeted at online harassment at all.  Instead, it would provide an update to Australian defamation laws.

They claimed the proposed legislation could embolden people to post defamatory material on social media, because the platform would bear the brunt of the legal responsibility instead.

“Given social media companies are almost always going to be more attractive defendants than the authors of the post, those people who may wish to make defamatory claims online will essentially be able to do so with impunity,” the company submitted.

“In essence, the legislation assigns full liability (in a practical sense) for all online content to the social media platform … even though the platform has no editorial control over the … context to the claims.”

Another submission from social media giant Twitter supports this.  The company argued that the proposed Bill considerably overlaps with existing defamation laws in Australia.

It’s not just social media providers who are concerned about the new Bill.  Law Council of Australia president Tass Liveris told the Committee that defamation claims were not the way to combat online harassment.

“[The Bill] is, in fact, if anything, more likely to lead to potentially defamatory material remaining online, when there are mechanisms to have it removed.”

Effectively, the Bill could lead to an increase in abusive social media comments, rather than the intended decrease.

If you believe you may have a defamation claim, contact the Team at Axia Litigation Lawyers on 5370 2900.