A district court judge in Australia’s New South Wales state has ordered a man to pay $150,000 in damages for writing a defamatory Facebook post that ruined a motel owner’s life.
In March 2014, electrician David Scott wrote the following post on Facebook: “Pedophile [sic] warning:- Nambucca [town] has been used as a relocation for these monsters – blue dolphin -nirvana hotel and above the Indian restaurant! Bus stops are right out front of these hotels for our children?”
When Kenneth Rothe — owner of those two hotels – requested Scott for a retraction and an apology, he was threatened and beaten up so badly that Rothe was hospitalised for six months.
A former school principal, Rothe, 74, offered crisis accommodation for people fleeing family disputes but denied he ever housed paedophiles under any agreement, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday.
Now, judge Judith Gibson has asked Scott to pay $150,000 in damages to Rothe.
“This Facebook attack was made on him out of the blue, with no prior inquiry of any kind by any person. It has had a devastating effect on him,” the judge was quoted as saying.
She found there was no factual basis to Scott’s claims.
“The anonymity, instantaneousness and wide-ranging reach of the internet and social media make it a dangerous tool in the hands of persons who see themselves as caped crusaders or whistleblowers, or alternatively want to humiliate or ‘troll’ other members of the community,” the judge pointed out.
After the defamatory post, people started making anonymous phone calls to Rothe’s motels, asking for sex.
Even the Nambucca Valley Crime Information Facebook page had republished the allegations.