’Outrageous’ calls for mayor to be ‘lynched’
GOLD Coast lawyers have warned people to be careful on social media after potentially actionable threats were made about Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate in a public Facebook group.
Lawyers are reporting an increased number of people seeking help to lodge defamation action arising from comments made on social media.
Members of a Facebook group have outrageously suggested Cr Tate should be dragged behind a truck and lynched.
The comments made could potentially be considered to be criminal threats if Cr Tate chose to report the matter to police, various legal experts have told the Bulletin.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate refused to entertain the posts with a response when asked about them by Bulletin - and the Bulletin had not received a response from the page administrator last night about whether they condoned the post.
Cr Tate recently welcomed the findings of the Crime and Corruption Commission into the council, which said it would not be taking further action and that all complaints against him had been dismissed.
The post started when one poster provided a link to an article about a Mexican mayor being dragged through the streets.
"If only it happened here although it would have to be a big truck to drag Tate along!," he said when he posted the link on Thursday.
At deadline last night, the group had not removed the post.
Other commenters also outrageously called for the mayor to be lynch, suggested he be tarred and feathered.
One user tried to calm the situation.
"As much as we don't like TT (sic) I don't think inciting violence is a great idea. That is all posts like this do. There has been a lot of this and a lot of bigotry of late," she said.
The group is a Facebook page for Gold Coast residents who are "united against inappropriate development".
Stone Group Lawyers partner and defamation lawyer Mia Behlau said in the past 12 months she estimated a 300 per cent rise in defamation cases to come across her desk.
"With social media it is just so easy for people to flippantly make comment or express an opinion and in most instances they are defamatory of somebody," she said.
Ms Behlau said previously the defamatory imputations would often be published in a letter or newsletter which were easy to get rid of.
Now comments could be posted online to thousands of people with the click of the button.
"The damage has been done and it's hard to undo because you don't know how many people have seen that post," she said.
Ms Behlau urged people to think before they post.
"It's good to remember that if you can't say something nice about somebody, then don't say anything at all," she said.
Robins Watson Solicitors consultant Christine Smyth said studies had likened what people said online to road rage.
She said once people were "behind a machine" the people of the other side did not matter.
Ms Smyth said defamation was more than just calling people names but it also had to lower the opinion of the public about a person.
An announcement on the page by one of the administrators on December 22 last year reminded users to "attack the idea, not the person".
The posts comes after the principal at a Tamborine Mountain school took parents at the school to trial over allegedly defamatory comments made on Facebook.
That case is expected to be decided in the coming months.