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CNN quits Facebook in Australia, citing defamation risk

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By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY, Sept 29 (Reuters) - CNN said it has stopped posting articles on Australian Facebook Inc pages, citing a court ruling that publishers are liable for defamation in public comments and the social media firm's refusal to help it disable comments in the country.

The move makes CNN, which is owned by AT&T Inc, the first major news organisation to pull its Australian Facebook presence since the country's high court ruled this month that publishers were legally responsible for comments posted below stories - even if the stories themselves were not defamatory.

CNN does not feature prominently in Australian media consumption, but the decision could have reverberations across the industry if other outlets followed suit.

Facebook declined a request to help CNN and other publishers disable public comments in the country following the ruling, CNN said.

"We are disappointed that Facebook, once again, has failed to ensure its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue around current events among its users," a CNN spokeswoman said in a statement.

She added that CNN would continue to publish content on its own platforms in Australia.

A Facebook spokesperson said recent court decisions had shown the need for reform in Australian defamation law and the company looked forward to "greater clarity and certainty in this area".

"While it's not our place to provide legal guidance to CNN, we have provided them with the latest information on tools we make available to help publishers manage comments," the spokesperson said.

Facebook says it has several features available for publishers and other users to restrict who can comment on posts. It and CNN did not give details of the discussions that led to CNN's decision.

Social media is a central channel for distributing content in Australia, with about two-thirds of the country's 25 million population on Facebook, according to industry figures. About a third of the country's population used Facebook to source news in 2021, a University of Canberra report said.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)