Slap in the face

Business owners hit out at Facebook 'hate page'

ANGRY business owners have hit out at a local Facebook “hate” page amid fears it spreads defamation and slander.

The Real Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down – Tamworth, NSW page has been active for a little over a year but has managed to get a number of local businesses off-side in that short amount of time.

Just this week, popular coffee hotspot Addimi was given a “huge thumbs down” over claims it allegedly asked a breast-feeding mother to leave the cafe.

What followed was nothing short of a furore. 

The post garnered 59 comments, many from enraged mothers who described the business as undeserving of their patronage and declared they would no longer frequent the establishment.

Rival businesses also got on board, with one stating breastfeeding patrons were welcome at their cafe.

Co-owner of Addimi, Adrian Coffey, strenuously refutes the claim, saying his cafe is pro-breastfeeding and there would be no way “in a million years” he or his staff would have asked a breastfeeding mother to leave.

“One hundred per cent, it would never happen,” Mr Coffey said.

“I’ve got customers saying it is untrue and mothers who breastfeed who say it’s untrue.”

Another businesswoman, who was the target of a similar attack two weeks ago and wished to remain anonymous, called for the page to be taken down.

“It is so negative. I was quite disturbed by it,” she said.

“If someone wants to say something horrible about you or your business, they can get away with it.”

Patrick O’Halloran, senior partner of RJ O’Halloran & Co, said while everyone had the right to freedom of speech, he cautioned social media commentators to act with restraint – or suffer the consequences.

“People want to be really, really careful about what they say on Facebook,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“The courts are changing and evolving with the changing technology and these people are leaving themselves wide open, in my view.”

He said the writer of a defamatory comment, along with the person who published it, could be held liable.

“If it leads to the lowering of a person’s reputation in the community, it is an open invitation to commence defamation proceedings,” he said.

One of the site’s four administrators, Kathy Lee, said she had no plans to hold the page, which has more than 2800 members, to greater scrutiny, nor modify its tone.

“If people believe everything they read on Facebook, then that’s their own silly fault, I think. If a customer is complaining about your service, maybe they should take that on board. If they are spreading nonsense about your business, then you should step up and say (by posting on the thread) ‘you’re lying’,” she said.

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