The outcome of the case was in a country with known to be strict libel laws, but it is unusual that the defendant was not another politician or a high-profile journalist, said Michael Douglas, a lecturer in private law at the University of Western Australia.

“It is consistent with the theme that this government is content to have a very clumsy approach to the online language that they don’t like,” he said. He added, “Cases like this are a warning that if nothing changes we will see more and more cases like this, and every Australian should be careful before retweeting a quote and naming a politician.”

Mr Dutton has been open about his intention to crack down on misleading or defamatory social media content. In March he has told a local radio station: “Some of these people who are trending on Twitter or who have the anonymity of various Twitter accounts are posting all of these statements and tweets that are frankly defamatory – I’m going to start picking out some of them.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeated this feeling in October, when he promised the government would do more to hold the social media giants accountable.

“Social media has become a palace of cowards where people can just go on, not say who they are, destroy people’s lives, and tell people the most nasty and obnoxious things, with impunity,” said Morrison.

In May, John Barilaro, then-Deputy Prime Minister of New South Wales, sued Australian YouTuber Jordan Shanks for defamation, alleging two videos incorrectly uploaded by Mr Shanks suggested he was guilty of corruption, perjury and extortion. He also said that Mr Shanks was racist in attacking his Italian heritage, including calling him a “cheater to the core, driven by spaghetti”.

Mr Shanks’ channel, FriendlyJordies, which has 600,000 subscribers, is known for its comedies and political commentary.



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