Social media defamation training offered in Australia

Australia has been called the defamation capital of the world, and more than half of these cases involve digital and social media settings.

Venessa Paech, ACM
Venessa Paech, ACM

Australian Community Managers (ACM) has collaborated with legal experts to develop on-demand training to help people who build, manage and moderate online groups to protect themselves, their users and their organisations from defamation. The training, which is accessible to anyone, is said to be a "national-first" in addressing the rising threat of defamation in social media and digital settings.

Australia has been called the 'defamation capital of the world', and more than 50 percent of cases happen in digital and social media settings. The Voller versus Nationwide ruling of 2019 (upheld on appeal in 2020), established that Australian organisations are legally liable for user-generated content on their social media pages and groups. But many organisations are still unsure how to manage these risks, especially non-professionals, such as administrators of neighbourhood Facebook groups. In 2020, a woman was ordered to pay AU$35,000 in relation to defamation in her Rose Bay Facebook group, and similar cases are on the rise.

The training will include five modules that cover what is defamation (including who and what can be defamed and the reasons people might allege defamation); the specific risks of defamation for online communities and social media groups; the consequences of, and defences for alleged defamation; how to minimise the risk of defamation in online environments before it happens; and how to identity moderate content that may be defamatory.

The training will target online community practitioners, supporting them in the realities of managing different community management scenarios involving defamation and negotiating the boundaries between free speech, criticism and defamation within their digital social settings.

"Community building is already hard, often thankless work," said Venessa Paech, ACM director and trainer. "We don't want people facing court appearances or fines for issues that are avoidable and manageable."

Participants of the training programme—which is priced at AU$299—will be given a certificate.

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