Reporter loses blockchain defamation case

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A journalist who wrote that defamation proceedings against him were "sucking up financial resources" better used for investigative reporting has been ordered to pay $400,000 to a woman he defamed.

Aaron Patrick -a reporter for the Australian Financial Review - and his employers at Fairfax, now owned by Nine, had the judgment made against them in Western Australia's Supreme Court this week.

Jemma Green sued for defamation over two articles published in the Australian Financial Review in December 2018 about her technology company Powerledger.

The former Perth deputy mayor founded the company which uses blockchain to trade in renewable energy.

Two articles by Mr Patrick were found to convey an imputation that Dr Green caused unethical market manipulation by Powerledger by using undisclosed paid spruikers to promote it and its POWR token.

POWR tokens allow holders to access Powerledger's energy trading software.

Justice Rene Le Miere said the imputation was defamatory and the defendants had been unable to establish that it was substantially true or that it was their honest opinion.

One of the articles criticised a campaign, described by Dr Green as "guerrilla marketing", in which she used Twitter to try to make contact with Tesla founder Elon Musk.

During the proceedings Mr Patrick wrote another article for the Australian Financial Review in which he said "defamation law is inexorably expanding from protection of the wealthy and shameless to prosecution of the middle class and angry".

"The case, which is being conducted in the West Australian Supreme Court, is sucking up financial resources that could be used to fund investigative journalism," he wrote.

Justice Le Miere found Dr Green was eligible for $400,000 in aggravated damages.

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