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  • Following passage of the Defamation Amendment Bill 2023, changes will come into effect on 1 July 2024.
  • These changes have been enacted, in large part, to address social media and the internet.
  • There are a number of significant reforms that practitioners should be aware of relating to the exemption of liability for publication of certain defamatory matter, introduction of early determination of matters and more.

In the early 2000s, significant reform was undertaken to harmonise State and Territory defamation laws. These reforms resulted in the amended Defamation Acts (e.g., Defamation Act 2005 (NSW)) (‘Defamation Act’) which came into force across Australia on 1 January 2006. When those reforms were considered and enacted, the internet was in its infancy and ‘social media’ did not exist.

In 2018, to address issues including those resulting from the development of the internet, the reform process began and has continued to this day. A major step was the suite of reforms that came into effect on 1 July 2021 resulting from the ‘Stage 1’ reform process. (See: David Helvadjian ‘Defamation law and the new serious harm test’, September 2021, David Helvadjian ‘In the public interest? The new defence in NSW defamation law’, December 2021, and David Helvadjian ‘New section 29A public interest defence considered’, November 2023 ).

On 22 September 2023, the final amendments for Parts A and B of the ‘Stage 2’ reform process were approved by the majority of jurisdictions. This article will consider the major reforms for NSW under Stage 2 and what those reforms will mean for the future of ‘digital defamation’.

What has NSW agreed to in terms of reforms?

On 17 October 2023, the Defamation Amendment Bill 2023 (NSW) was passed by both Houses and will come into effect on 1 July 2024. This enacts Part A and Part B of the Stage 2 reforms agreed to in September 2023.

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