Man awarded $150,000 after defamatory Facebook post leads to assault

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A 2014 Facebook post which falsely accused an Australian motel owner of harboring pedophiles carried some pretty serious consequences, as it recently led to a series of assaults on the man by locals who heard about the claims. The man responsible for the post now has to pay $150,000 in restitution as part of a court verdict.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 74-year-old Kenneth Rothe was the owner of the Blue Dolphin Motel and Nirvana Village Motel as well as a rental unit in the town of Nambucca Heads on the northern coast of Australia. But in March 2014, a man named David Scott accused Rothe of being sympathetic to pedophiles in a post that read:

"Pedophile warning:- Nambucca 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 theses hotels for our children?"

Because people have a tendency to take things at face value, the Nambucca Valley Crime Information Facebook page republished the allegations. As a result, the assaults Rothe suffered put him in the hospital for six months, and his family feared so much for their lives that they've since moved. According to the Morning Herald, Rothe often provided "crisis accommodation" for people fleeing from domestic disputes, but vehemently maintains that he never housed ex-cons or abusers. He asked Scott for an apology and a retraction from the seemingly random post, but Scott wouldn't budge.

SEE ALSO: Wyoming Man Receives 19-Year Sentence For Record Cache Of Child Porn

But the Aussie courts are on Rothe's side at least. While ordering Scott to pay the former hotelier $150,000, Judge Judith Gibson also warned against saying whatever the hell you want on Facebook.

RELATED: See how Facebook has changed since it was launched

34 PHOTOS
Facebook over the years
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Facebook over the years

The original Facebook homepage from 2004 with a small picture of Al Pacino in the top left corner.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg originally described himself as not only the founder of Facebook, but also as the "Master and Commander" and "Enemy of the State."

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Here's what a Facebook group page looked like in 2005.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

For comparison, this is what a Facebook group page looks like today.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook homepage in 2005 also listed all of the schools the social network was in -- and still included the photo of Al Pacino.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The company decided to drop the "the" from its name in 2005, after it bought the domain Facebook.com for $200,000.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

We love this gem about "poking" from one of the original FAQ pages.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's homepage in 2006 was a stripped-back affair, doing away with the list of schools in favor of a simple login option.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Mark Zuckerberg's profile in 2006.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Feed to display all your friends' activity in a single timeline in 2006.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

At the same time, Facebook introduced the Mini-Feed. But the entire concept of a News Feed resulted in some very public outrage. Some users even went so far to call one of Facebook's product managers the devil.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook's 2007 homepage contained the first instance of its now-synonymous logo and offered the "latest news" from friends.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

The Facebook of 2008 continued to refine the homepage and offered options for signing up.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook gained the "connected world" diagram in 2009, which lasted all the way until 2011.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

In 2009, Facebook's home page also got a facelift. Posts started to stream through the News Feed in real-time.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

That same year, Facebook also introduced its algorithm for determining the order in which status updates should be displayed.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook changed its logo font in 2010 but left the homepage much the same.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

2010 was also when Facebook brought notifications to the top navigation bar following yet another redesign.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also rolled out a new, more visual profile in 2010. It added a row of recently tagged images below your name and basic profile information.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook left the design the same in 2011, but made the input boxes used to log in clearer.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook launched the News Ticker in 2011 so users could keep up with their friends while browsing through other parts of Facebook.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

The Facebook Timeline feels like it's been around since the beginning. But it launched in 2011 to act as a virtual timeline of your entire life.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also split its instant messaging into a different app called Messenger in 2011. It's now got more than 800 million monthly users.

Photo courtesy: iTunes

Facebook swapped out the connected world diagram for a phone in 2012 as its users moved from desktop to mobile. Today, over 800 million people access Facebook on mobile everyday.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Facebook started flooding the News Feed with sponsored stories in January 2012.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook settled on a design in 2013 that it would stay with for the next few years.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

This is what Facebook's mobile app looked like when it first launched.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

It has since been completely redesigned.

Photo courtesy: WayBack Machine

Facebook also owns a bunch of other popular apps, most notably Instagram, which the company bought for $1 billion in 2012. With more than 400 million monthly users, that seems like a steal nowadays.

Photo courtesy: Business Insider

2015 was a big year for Facebook that saw its first ever day with one billion users online simultaneously. The company had figured out how to make money from mobile too, turning it into a $300 billion business.

Photo courtesy: Max Slater-Robins/WayBack Machine

Today, more than 1.5 billion people use the social network every single month.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

And more than 1.4 billion people use it on their mobile phones every month. Not bad, considering 12 years ago smartphones didn't even exist.

Photo courtesy: Facebook

Here's the Facebook homepage today, on its 12th birthday.
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"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 for the purpose of gratifying their own wishes or fears of for the purpose of gaining attention," Gibson said.

The post Man Awarded $150,000 After Defamatory Facebook Post Leads To Assault appeared first on Vocativ.

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