In a controversial and interesting District Court case, a Judge has recently awarded a plaintiff the sum of $35,000 in damages after a Judge found the plaintiff was defamed by a single Facebook post in a Sydney community Facebook group.

The plaintiff successfully argued that the post in the Rose Bay Group by the defendant in November 2018, conveyed imputations that the plaintiff was a danger to women and a stalker.

The online dispute came about when the plaintiff started a rival community Facebook group a year before the post after being banned from the official Rose Bay Group page.

Following the defamatory post, the plaintiff filed a statement of claim in the District Court alleging he was defamed by the post.  As is more common these days, the defendant set up a ‘Go Fund Me’ campaign to assist in payment of her legal fees, but that backfired when the ‘Go Fund Me’ page got her in further trouble as the page made further reference to the defamatory material.

The plaintiff was forced to bring an application for an injunction against the defendant to prevent her from further posting defamatory material about the plaintiff.

Whilst the award of damages was not overly significant, when coupled with the potential legal costs consequences that follow, the overall financial detriment can be significant.

Given the viral nature of social media, it is unsurprising that online comments have formed the basis of some recent defamation proceedings. It is important to remember that social media platforms are public domains, and the comments you make can lead to litigation and expensive consequences.

The prevalence of online trolls keen to post their unfiltered views about everything has led to an influx of cease and desist letters and defamation cases in the courts.

You should proceed with caution before posting inflammatory or unkind words about another person, or even a small business online.  Given the potentially huge audience for your post, the level of damages grows exponentially because of the number of people that view the defamatory material.  As a general rule, if you’re not prepared to say something to the person’s face, it’s generally not something that’s appropriate to be posted on social media.  If you are expressing an opinion about someone, you should identify that it is an opinion and you should ensure it is based upon facts that you know to be true and where you can verify those facts.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a cease and desist letter, don’t ignore it.  Seek legal advice immediately and contact us on (07) 5591 5099 as you may have a small window to stave off legal proceedings.

McLaughlins Lawyers, your experienced Gold Coast Lawyers, we stand beside you.


Author: Matt Kollrepp

Director: Ian Kennedy

Date: 12 June 2020