Internet trolls, beware: A conspiracy theorist who claimed a politician was involved in a pedophile ring has been ordered to pay more than half a million dollars. Last month, Anne Webster, a first-term Australian MP, and her husband sued Karen Brewer over a series of Facebook posts that claimed Webster was "a member of a secretive pedophile network" who arrived in Parliament "to protect a past generation of pedophiles," per the Guardian. The posts, which smack of wild QAnon claims, were shared hundreds of times, including on accounts linked to a city within the district Webster represents. On Tuesday, Judge Jacqueline Gleeson ruled the Websters were "entitled to substantial awards of damage" to illustrate the "baselessness" of the "vile" claims, which also targeted the couple's nonprofit. She then ordered Brewer to pay the equivalent of $625,000.
Webster and her husband, Phillip, had launched not a pedophile ring, but an organization that supports 150 young mothers, per the Guardian and ABC Australia. "While I consider that rational people would regard Ms. Brewer's publications as delusional, I accept that some people may find them persuasive," Gleeson wrote in her decision. Brewer was ordered to pay $250,000 to Webster, $160,000 to her husband, and $215,000 to the nonprofit, Zoe Support. Brewer didn't take part in the proceedings and instead has mocked the judge in videos online, per the Guardian. Following the verdict, Webster expressed interest in holding Facebook accountable. "It is a bit of a scary world where people can share whatever they like and it's only by going through legal cases that things can change," she said, per ABC. (Read more defamation stories.)