In October 2021, the federal government introduced the Social Media (Basic Expectations and Defamation) Bill to ensure social media users are safe online. The laws contemplated by this bill, would give the Communications Minister authority to make determinations about the basic expectation of a social media service. The eSafety Commissioner would also be able to request that social media companies report on how they are meeting the expectations, and issue findings on contraventions. The proposed laws would also enable members of the public to make complaints to the eSafety Commissioner about defamatory material on social media platforms.

In line with the Social Media (Basic Expectations and Defamation) Bill, the federal government announced in late November 2021, a Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill, which is yet to be introduced. The proposed laws would require social media companies to obtain each user's name, email address and phone number to limit the creation of anonymous troll accounts. The proposed laws would also empower users who are victims of defamation, to unmask anonymous user accounts in two ways:

  • through a complaints mechanism that would allow the user to raise concerns about the defamatory post with the provider; or
  • through an 'end-user information disclosure order' from a court.

An exposure draft of the legislation was published on 1 December 2021.

Key takeaways

Councillors can often be the subject of defamatory comments or posts on social media. If these laws are passed, they will give councillors a greater ability to unmask online trolls and take action.

We will provide further updates in relation to these bills if they are passed into laws.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.