Summary of Justice John Dixon's decision in relation to an interlocutory injunction delivered on 6 September 2018.
Justice John Dixon in the Victorian Supreme Court has granted an interlocutory injunction against the marketing company behind a Facebook group which has engaged in online behaviour that his Honour says may amount to a campaign of harassment.
The Court heard the Facebook group originally constituted 139,000 members, who ostensibly engaged in discussion about the Victorian Certificate of Education and its examinations. After the plaintiff complained to the defendant and Facebook in July about breaches of its copyright in relation to numerous practice examinations, Facebook shut down the group. At the same time, the defendant provided undertakings to the plaintiff that it would refrain from making derogatory, defamatory, unsavoury, untrue or unfavourable comments about the plaintiff.
The marketing company, however, almost immediately formed a new Facebook group with a similar name (VCE DiscussionSpace Backup), and one of the defendants urged the estimated 11,000 followers in the second group to “reclaim the group that is rightfully ours”. The Court heard there have since been derogatory and abusive postings targeting the plaintiff’s business and the Facebook page of one of its employees and his wife.
Justice Dixon said posting to “reclaim the group” amounted to a “call to arms”, and arguably had provoked a campaign of harassment of the plaintiff. His Honour said there was a “lower risk of injustice” in granting an injunction to restrain a publication at this point because of the exceptional circumstances.
It should be noted that this is an interlocutory injunction only. A trial of the matter, which involves allegations of contractual breaches, defamation and malicious falsehood, will proceed at a later date.
Note: This summary is necessarily incomplete. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgment .