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Home Politics Facebook apologises to Australian lawmaker over delay in taking down conspiracy posts

Facebook apologises to Australian lawmaker over delay in taking down conspiracy posts

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Facebook’s Australian director of public policy Mia Garlick apologised for how the social networking site had handled the case.

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In a case of delayed action, Facebook has issued an apology over the failure of handling reports of abuse received by Australian lawmaker Anne Webster from an online conspiracy theorist. As per The Guardian reports, conspiracy theorist Karen Brewer — who had accused the Australian lawmaker of being a member of a ‘secretive paedophile network’ on social media — has been ordered to pay $875,000 in damages after a federal court judge termed the claims as ‘disgraceful and inexplicable’. The defamation payout order was announced by the federal court justice Jacqueline Gleeson in September.

The posts were reportedly shared hundreds of times in April on Facebook and falsely accused Webster of being a member of a secretive paedophile network. Meanwhile, Webster’s husband and the not-for-profit they set up to help single mothers were also included in the payout. Furthermore, Brewer’s account was not deleted by Facebook until a report on the matter was published by the Guardian Australia in August. 

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Webster slams Facebook

During the parliamentary committee hearing on family, domestic and sexual violence, Webster questioned whether Facebook could support people subject to abuse online if it took around five months for Facebook to take action in her case.

Facebook’s Australian director of public policy, Mia Garlick, apologised for how the social networking site had handled the case and said she understands how upsetting and damaging the untrue accusations must have been for Webster.

However, Garlick differentiated between Webster’s experience on Facebook and the experience of people who are not public figures. She said content was not automatically removed in cases where public figures are accused of crimes, but added that Facebook reviews applicable laws to see if the content is found to be in breach of the law, and then it is blocked.

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The Facebook official further said that there were some additional legal complexities in the case. Facebook is actively engaged in advocating for reform of defamation law to try to assist in more swiftly addressing these kinds of issues, she said.

On the other hand, Webster also pointed out the defamatory posts also targeted her husband and a charity, and she said Facebook’s abuse reporting tools were not fit for purpose. The lawmaker further said the FB policies were not working and needed to be improved. Meanwhile, Garlick said Facebook’s machine learning and AI processes were being developed to ensure that abusive content was caught before it was posted, but it was hard to hard code in potentially defamatory content. 

Meanwhile, it is important to note that as part of a state and federal reform of defamation law announced last year in Australia, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter could be held liable for content posted on their platforms.

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(Image- AP File)

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