A man has been awarded $35,000 in damages after a judge found he was
defamed by a single post in a Sydney community Facebook group.
Bruce Goldberg said people yelled at him in the street and whispered about him
He argued the post was seen by “hundreds” of people
Mr Goldberg gave evidence that he was “shocked and speechless” at the post
Local man Bruce Goldberg successfully argued the post in the Rose Bay group,
by Alice Voigt in November 2018, conveyed imputations including that he was a
danger to women and a stalker.
The online spat began when Mr Goldberg started a rival community Facebook group
the year before, after being banned from the “official” Rose Bay page.
The suburb is among Sydney’s most affluent, where the median house price is more
than $3.8 million.
Weeks after the post, Mr Goldberg filed a statement of claim.
The NSW District Court was told the “official” page was a closed group and
was not accessible to the public generally.
Ms Voigt’s defence said the material would have been seen by between
10 and 100 people, therefore was a “very limited” publication.
Mr Goldberg argued the readership would have been “at least in the hundreds”,
fuelled by “chatter” in the community and the “sensational” nature of the post.
The court heard Alice Voigt’s post implied Mr Goldberg was a stalker. (Supplied)
The imputations also included claims Mr Goldberg was
“mentally unstable” and was
“likely to kill women”.
Ms Voigt said she “sincerely regretted” and apologised to
Mr Goldberg for the post, and
had offered to pay him $5,000.
That offer was later increased to $25,000.
Mr Goldberg began fresh defamation proceedings
when another post appeared
late last year, in which Ms
Voigt included a link to a GoFundMe fundraising page
for her court costs.
In that post, she said she was
“a very strong advocate for
women” and urged people to “show your support”.
The GoFundMe campaign had raised $4,350 as of Thursday.
In its description, Ms Voigt said the last few years had beena divorce
“extremely difficult”, including years in Family Court for
in addition to the defamation proceedings.
She referred to Australia’s defamation laws as “archaic” and
said they had “not caught
up with social media”.
The online spat took place in a local community group for residents.
of affluent coastalsuburb Rose Bay (AAP: Sam Mooy)
In an application for an injunction last year, Mr Goldberg’s lawyer
Barrie Goldsmithclaimed Ms Voigt showed a “blatant disregard”
for the proceedings and had “thumbedher nose” at the legal process.
Mr Goldberg gave evidence that he was “shocked and speechless”
when he read the post, and in the weeks after people yelled at him
in the street and were whispering about him.
On one occasion he was asked by an old school friend to “explain himself”.
“I couldn’t think straight,” he said in his evidence.
“I thought my reputation to be … totally damaged and my credibility’s
gonedown the tube and there was not much I could do about it.”
District Court Judge Richard Weinstein’s ruling of $35,000 in
damages includingaggravated damages.
Judge Weinsten agreed the “slight” aggravation included
subsequent posts which in substance repeated part of the