‘Name and shame’ web page shut down

A HUNTER business is understood to be considering legal action over a ‘‘name and shame’’ web page that gained almost 6000 followers in six days.

The page, which posted anonymous complaints about dozens of local businesses, was removed from the social network Facebook about 10am on Wednesday.

Most comments on the page complained about poor customer service, but some alleged serious criminal conduct.

Australian Defamation Lawyers principal Barrie Goldsmith confirmed he was acting on behalf of a Hunter-based business that had been mentioned.

Mr Goldsmith said genuine complaints posted in a public forum could often become defamatory if others ‘‘dramatised or embellished’’ in response. 

‘‘There is always a risk,’’ Mr Goldsmith said. ‘‘When you publish anything there is always a risk of being sued.’’

Mr Goldsmith said a landmark Supreme Court case last year found Google liable for damages as the ‘‘publisher’’ of search results. He said defamation claims about online material were becoming more frequent: ‘‘It’s really symptomatic of the internet and the growth of the internet.’’

Facebook did not respond to questions about whether the site had received complaints, or was responsible for removing the ‘‘name and shame’’ page.

Before it was shut down, the page had generated  debate about the ethics of publicly and anonymously posting complaints.