A recent case in the Federal Court of Australia[1] demonstrates how a not-for-profit (NFP) organisation can get caught up in a social media defamation claim.

The parties

  • Zoe Support assists disadvantaged and welfare–dependant young mothers in Mildura, providing pathways to education, training and employment. Zoe Support brought the proceedings.
  • Dr Anne Webster (the founder of Zoe Support) and Dr Philip Webster (her husband) also brought the proceedings.
  • Ms Brewer who made video posts over a two week period.

The video posts

The video posts (shared on social media) alleged that the Websters and Zoe Support was part of a secretive criminal network involved in the sexual abuse of children.

The Court’s finding

There was absolutely no basis for the claims in the video posts and that the claims were the most serious kind of defamation which could be levelled at an individual or a charity.

The Court ordered the following damages:

  • $350,000 to Dr Anne Webster
  • $225,000 to Dr Philip Webster
  • $300,000 to Zoe Support

Conclusion

This case demonstrates that the Court is willing, in the right circumstances, to order damages in favour of a NFP defamed on social media.

 

[1] Weber v Brewer (no 3) [2020] FCA 1343

 

About the Author

Catherine Ballantyne

Partner
A business disputes specialist, Catherine is a trusted advisor to businesses and individuals in obtaining successful outcomes. Businesses rely on Catherine as a trusted advisor as well as lawyer in guiding them through complex litigation and disputes.

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