Can a Facebook post cost you?

Associate Principal Caroline Callegari summarises the consequences of a defamatory Facebook post for both author and victim, in 2023 Queensland case.


In the case of Rodgers & Anor v Gooding [2023] QDC 115 (48 of 2022) Coker DCJ 23 June 2023 - a Queensland woman was ordered to pay $279,000 in damages to a couple she defamed in a Facebook group. This included both compensatory and aggravated damages.  

What happened?

In this case, the Defendant, Ms Gooding had falsely accused her neighbours of being pedophiles in a community Facebook Group: the Bushland Beach Crime Alert group. When questioned by group members, Ms Gooding lied that her account had been hacked, in an attempt to get away with the claims that she had made in her post.

The post was online for approximately about 90 minutes before being taken down. However, in that time, it did a lot of damage as it was posted on the community forum of a tight knit group and was posted in circumstances where there was a lack of bona fides by her. Screenshots of the post were also taken and shared via mobile phone.

In order to show how the post had affected them, one of the Plaintiffs made the following statement in her affidavit to the Court about why they sued, and the impact the post had on them – which demonstrates just how much of an impact what is said online can have (the extract below has been anonymised):

“****and I believed it was absolutely necessary that we commence legal proceedings because of the defamatory post. The allegations made against **** and I are dreadful and have left a terrible stain on our reputations and on our address. In those circumstances we felt that we had no choice but to take steps to try and restore our reputation as best we could in the circumstances. It is important that people that **** and I are not paedophiles. However, I do not believe that whatever we do we will ever be able to wash the stain away entirely.**** has by her conduct detrimentally affected our lives forever.”


In terms of assessing damages, the Judge made the following comments about the consequences of posting online:

62. Additionally, there needs also, in relation to the assessment of compensatory damages, to be a consideration of the extent of the publication and the possibility of spread along what is now referred to as a grapevine, and therefore to appear at other places that might be unknown to the plaintiffs. In that regard, defamatory statements published on the internet or social media are cases that show the spread that can occur. Judge Elkaim SC of the New South Wales District in Mickle v Farley [2013] NSWDC 295 said the following:

There is one matter that I omitted in relation to the compensatory damages, and that is distress that when defamatory publications are made on social media it is common knowledge that they spread. They spread easily, by the simple manipulation of mobile phones and computers. Their evil lies in the grapevine effect that stems from this kind of communication.


In reaching its decision, the Court considered the seriousness of what was said; the consequences for the Plaintiffs; the need to ensure that the amount of damages is sufficient, not only, to vindicate the Plaintiffs at the time of publication and at the time of judgment, but also, into the future; and the need for a meaningful penalty to be imposed in relation to the aggravated nature of the publication. The Court awarded each of the Plaintiffs $100,000 in compensatory damages AND $25,000 and $40,000in aggravated damages, respectively, plus interest and costs.

How Sharrock Pitman Legal can assist?

There is no doubt that social media groups are a wonderful way for people with shared interests to connect.

However, posting online is another means of putting something in writing. For an author, making a false claim or allegation can lead to serious consequences and reputational damage for the victims and the offender.

If you believe that you have been defamed or if a defamation claim has been made against you, please do not hesitate to contact our experienced Disputes & Litigation team by email or contact us on 1300 205 506.

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

For further information contact  
Caroline Callegari

Caroline Callegari is an Associate Principal and leads our Disputes & Litigation team. She has an advisory and advocacy practice in the following areas: Commercial Litigation, corporate and personal disputes, debt recovery and, insolvency and bankruptcy matters. Caroline can be contacted on (03) 8561 3324.


For fifty years Sharrock Pitman Legal has made a significant and long term contribution to meeting the legal needs of business owners and residents in the City of Monash and greater Melbourne area.

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