Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Do you have faith in humanity?

Or do you happen to believe that too many of its members can be gratuitously cruel and vindictive sorts?

This question is an important one for Kenneth Rothe.

The 74-year-old ran a couple of small motels in Nambucca, Australia. They were called the Blue Dolphin and Nirvana Village Motel.

One day in 2014, an electrician called David Scott decided to write this Facebook post: "Pedophile warning:- Nambucca has been used as a relocation for these monsters - blue dolphin -nirvana hotel and above the Indian restaurant! ...Bus stops are right out front of theses hotels for our children?"

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, no one really knows why Scott wrote this.

There doesn't appear to have been any relationship between him and Rothe.

It was more like the "I've heard people say" sort of rumor-mongering that we've lately become used to from certain politicians.

This, though, was very damaging to Kenneth Rothe's businesses.

It was also damaging to him personally.

His life was threatened. He was beaten up. He spent six months in the hospital.

And all because some random man had alleged that his businesses housed pedophiles.

Rothe had begged Scott to retract his allegations -- none of which have ever been proved. Scott refused (he's not accused of having had anything to do with the physical assaults on Rothe).

What other recourse did Rothe have?

He and his family were forced to move to another state.

This retired deputy principal only had the court system left.

In the New South Wales District Court, Judge Judith Gibson examined the evidence.

She decided that Scott should pay Rothe 150,000 Australian dollars.

Her words should send a shiver down the spines of many whose businesses can be ruined by a stray, malicious piece of online commentary, whether on Facebook or Yelp.

"This Facebook attack was made on him out of the blue, with no prior inquiry of any kind by any person," said the judge.

It can happen so easily to any business owner. It can happen anonymously. It can happen even if someone puts their name to the allegations.

Your business gets targeted and there's nothing you can do about it.

As Judge Gibson explained: "The anonymity, instantaneousness and wide ranging reach of the Internet and social media make it a dangerous tool in the hands of persons who see themselves as caped crusaders or whistleblowers, or alternatively want to humiliate or troll other members of the community for the purpose of gratifying their own wishes or fears of for the purpose of gaining attention."

You've seen those people in action. You know what they can do. They don't think, they act.

Scott claimed he was just warning others. The problem is that there was no evidence for his allegations.

The judge said that Scott hadn't bothered to find out whether these accusations were even remotely true before he posted them.

Rothe said he did extend crisis hospitality to those in family disputes, but not to pedophiles.

Yet that one Facebook post ruined his business and changed his life.

In such circumstances, what can you do?

At least the courts were prepared to back Rothe, but not before he'd suffered enormous personal damage.

Business owners have to be vigilant at all times for such muckraking social media posts.

Ultimately, they have to hope that it doesn't happen to them or, if it does, they have to fight back quickly.

It's easy to hope that it will all blow over. Sometimes, though, the effects last and multiply.

Mark Zuckerberg's idealistic -- actually, more opportunistic -- "open and connected" world is sometimes a little too open and a little too connected to the ability to gratuitously destroy others.

Aug 9, 2016