Quaden Bayles, the nine-year-old Murri boy who appeared in a video that went viral is suing News Corp and its high-profile columnist Miranda Devine for defamation.
In February, Quaden’s mother, Yarraka Bayles, posted a video saying: “This is what bullying does,” after her son, who was born with dwarfism, was bullied at school.
“I’ve just picked my son up from school, witnessed a bullying episode, rang the principal, and I want people to know, parents, educators, teachers, this is the effect that bullying has,” Yarraka says in the video.
In the confronting video, Quaden says: “Give me a knife, I want to kill myself.”
The footage went viral with most people showing sympathy for the child.
Others not he other hand, accused him of faking his distress after a fundraiser raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After anonymous trolls chose to attack him online, the young boy was supported by high profile people such as Hugh Jackman and was invited to lead Australia’s Indigenous All Stars rugby league on to the pitch for a match in Queensland.
Devine retweeted the Twitter user @bubblebathgirl, who made claims that Quaden was an actor whose mother posted a fake sob story and collected $300,000 in donations.
Devine said: “That’s really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims.”
When the Twitter user @CoffeyJPC responded by saying: “It’s a crime if it is a scam. Child abuse. How could anyone parent do this?” Devine replied: “Yep. Exactly. On the case.”
Paul Barry, host of ABC's Media Watch, said Devine should have fact checked the post “as any proper journalist would do, she would know that it’s nonsense, and she should not be retweeting it and suggesting it might be true. Do you expect no standards from such a prominent columnist?”
But Devine did not delete her tweet and said: “Typical of your sloppy research @therealpbarry. I never mentioned anything about age. Dishonest diversion.”
The statement of claim says the tweet was defamatory because it carried the imputations that Quaden had “dishonestly acted out being distressed in a video to obtain money from donors” and that he had dishonestly pretended to be the victim of bullying, thereby hurting genuine victims of bullying”.
It also implied that his mother had “posted online a video of her son knowing it falsely depicted him as being distressed, to get donations” and that she had “dishonestly coached her son to pretend to be distressed to get donations”, according to the documents lodged in the federal court on Monday.
In March, News Corp lawyers refused to take responsibility for Devine’s Twitter account, saying it was “self-evidently a personal account and is published by Twitter”.
This article originally appeared on Over60.