Defamatory internet commenter hunted down and sued


"Legal counsel Martin Bennett has a short message for those who allow themselves to attack reputations over the internet, imagining they are safe under the cloak of anonymity. "You can be hunted down and found," he said yesterday.

Mr Bennett has done just that for a Perth client, winning $30,000 in damages and costs, an apology, and undertakings from a Colac man that he won't post any more defamatory comments.

The hunt for the man's true identity proved the stuff of private detective novels updated into the age of blogs. The action against Graeme Gladman began after highly uncomplimentary comments appeared last November under pseudonyms on the HotCopper website, a stockmarket forum. The postings related to technology security company Datamotion Asia Pacific Ltd and its Perth-based chairman and managing director, Ronald Moir. One posting appeared under the pseudonym of "witch".

Datamotion and Mr Moir hired Mr Bennett to launch defamation proceedings. But first Mr Bennett had to track down "witch". He asked HotCopper to reveal the identity of the person registered under that pseudonym, plus two others under different pseudonyms, but HotCopper refused. Mr Bennett then took court action, forcing HotCopper to turn over its files. "Unfortunately, the registered membership name appeared to be false," he said. "It turned out to be attached to an escort service in Geelong."

But Mr Bennett was not prepared to concede the trail was cold. He told The Age he did not wish to reveal the details of his next detective steps, but the upshot was a defamation action against Mr Gladman alleging that, as a result of his postings, Datamotion and Mr Moir had been "brought into hatred, contempt and ridicule and thereby suffered damage".

It was resolved last week, with Mr Gladman agreeing to pay damages totalling $20,000, taxed legal costs of $10,000, and to provide apologies and undertakings not to publish further defamatory postings. Mr Bennett has launched two more cases. Both are pending before the WA Supreme Court.


A warning that all commenters would do well to heed. Unless you are posting from an internet coffee-lounge or the like, you can probably be traced by anyone who really wants to.

Posted by John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see TONGUE-TIED. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here

1 comment:

  1. I believe that defamation took place in a forum where people knew each other professionally. Still, pays to be circumspect in your postings...


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