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Abstract

There is a range of technical possibilities for providing electronic bulletin boards on the Internet, such as for example, Internet Relay Chats (IRC) archives, Usenet, website ‘guest books’, some forms of Weblogs and the classic Bulletin Board Services (BBS). The question whether the provider of such electronic bulletin boards are to be held liable for defamatory content, placed on the bulletin board by a third party, has been the subject of several cases, some legislation and sparked a long-running international debate. Australian commentators have mainly pointed to two possible defences – that provided to so-called innocent disseminators, and that provided under section 91 of Schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth). Both of these defences, however, arguably represent very modest comfort for bulletin board operators.

This article suggests that there might be another possible approach providing a more direct protection for the operators of online bulletin boards, acting in a responsible manner.

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