Man Awarded $150,000 After Being Accused of Running a “Paedophile Motel” on Facebook

Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

A man has been awarded $150,000 after wrongly being accused of being a paedophile over Facebook.

74-year-old Kenneth Rothe from Nambucca heads, New South Wales had his life turned upside down after David Scott posted an inflammatory and baseless accusation on Facebook, which alleged that Mr Rothe was allowing paedophiles to stay in the two motels he owned. According to reports, Scott wrote:  “Pedophile [sic] 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?”

Former deputy principal Rothe was forced to move from his home in Nambucca and leave behind his Blue Dolphin and Nirvana Village motels, after he and his family began receiving anonymous calls and death threats. Rothe contacted Scott to ask him to retract his claim and to issue an apology, but Scott kept the post on the social networking site as it continued to be shared by those living in the region. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Rothe offered emergency accommodation in his motels to individuals fleeing family disputes, though did not open his doors to pedophiles or other ex-convicts.

After the Facbook post had been made, Rothe was the subject of a violent attack that left him hospitalized for six months. The New South Wales court heard that Rothe was asked “Are you the blue dolphin paedophile?” by the man who attacked him. His family relocated as a result, with two threats also being made on Rothe’s life in the aftermath of the post.

Judge Judith Gibson spoke of the “devastating effect” the Facebook post had on Rothe, adding that Scott had been unable to verify any of the claims he alleged that he had heard regarding the patrons of the motels. Judge Gibson then spoke of the damaging effects of social media, saying: “The anonymity, instaneousness 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.”

David Scott was forced to pay $150,000 in damages.