Australian MP Anne Webster and her husband have been awarded 875,000 AUD (over Rs 4.5 crore) in a defamation suit that they filed against a woman over a Facebook post in which she alleged that the politician was part of a “secretive paedophile network”, BBC reported.
Anne Webster, a member of Australia’s National Party, sued online conspiracy theorist Karen Brewer in Federal Court soon after she shared a series of posts and videos on the social media site during a two-week period between April and May.
The posts alleged that Webster was “a member of a secretive paedophile network” and also made a number of false claims about an organisation called Zoe Support, that she founded with her husband to help single mothers, BBC reported.
Justice Jacqueline Gleeson on Tuesday called the claims “wholly indefensible”, adding that they were “deranged and lacking in credibility”. The posts were also widely shared online, as a result of which the Websters had “suffered intensely”, Justice Gleeson wrote in her judgement. According to the BBC report, Webster was awarded damages of $350,000, her husband damages of $225,000 and their organisation Zoe Support $300,000.
Karen Brewer deleted her Facebook account after The Guardian Australia covered the case in a story. Meanwhile, Webster has slammed the social networking platform for refusing to take down the posts initially, despite her repeated requests for them to do so, Australian broadcaster ABC News reported.
Soon after the ruling, the MP told ABC News that she is keen on exploring legislative changes that would make companies like Facebook more accountable for material published online.
“It’s not an unknown world — but it is a bit of a scary world — where people can share whatever they like and it’s only by going through legal cases that things can change,” she said. “I wasn’t so aware of the whole conspiracy theory at the time — for me, it was an issue of justice and it was to make a stand.”
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