In 2021, Zoe Anne Gooding falsely accused her neighbours Mianka Rodgers and Michael Usher of being paedophiles in a local Townsville Facebook group. As a result of the false accusation, the couple commenced court proceedings and received a judgement against Gooding for almost $300,000.00. Rodgers and Usher were forced to abandon their dream of becoming foster parents due to the significant damage the allegation had caused to their reputations.
With the prevalence of social media in our daily lives, almost everyone has either a Facebook account, Twitter account or Instagram account or maybe all three. Social platforms now make it simple to post your thoughts and opinions to whoever you let see them. Many people like to post about how they are spending their day, where they are on holiday or special occasions. Other people like to express their opinions and thoughts on topics.
Facebook groups provide people with the space to do just this and although it could be a great way to spark conversation, it could also create a toxic environment of negative discourse. Although members may believe that they may be posting to a small, closed-off group of people, some forget that their posts can still be seen by the public. Even if a Facebook group requires one to request to join in order to stay updated on the posts in that one group, some individual posts can be viewed by someone who is not a member. When members realise that their post is no longer as contained as they initially thought, they attempt to make another post providing an explanation or remove their post to ameliorate their error. Unfortunately, it is generally by this time that the post has been shared outside of the group and to the wider community, potentially causing irreparable damage, as was the case for Rodgers and Usher.
This case demonstrates that a post as small as one horrible comment on social media could negatively impact someone’s life and should serve as a reminder to think before posting on social media.