WARNING: This article discusses suicide
Yarraka Bayles has filed defamation proceedings on behalf of her son Quaden against Miranda Devine and News Corp over a series of tweets the columnist posted following a bullying incident in February.
Nine-year-old Quaden, who was born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, made headlines across the world after Yarraka live-streamed a video of the aftermath of a school bullying incident.
In the video, Quaden is inconsolable and speaks of suicide, saying "give me a knife now so I can stab myself in the heart. You watch me."
There was an outpouring of support around the globe for the Murri boy, with celebrities and sports stars sending him well wishes. US comedian Brad Williams raised over $700,000 via a GoFundMe page that aimed to send Quaden and his family to Disneyland.
The Bayles family declined the trip and instead arranged for the funds to be shared among anti-bullying and healing charities, and to assist with Quaden's ongoing medical expenses.
There was also a raft of misinformation spread across the internet. Online users doctored photos of Quaden to remove their context in order to construct false narratives about the family.
Tweeting from New York on February 21, NewsCorp's Devine, a well-known figure in the media industry with more than 70,000 Twitter followers, shared an old video clip of Quaden in which he holds a handful of Australian currency.
Devine wrote, "That’s really rotten if this was a scam. Hurts genuine bullying victims" and then engaged in an exchange with Twitter user ‘CoffeyJPC’.
CoffeyJPC responded to Devine's post by saying 'It's a crime if it is a scam. Child abuse. How could anyone parent do this?" to which Devine replied "Yep. Exactly. On the case."
A statement of claim filed in the Federal Court on July 31 by Centennial Lawyers says that the tweets defame Quaden by suggesting he "dishonestly acted out being distressed in a video to obtain money from donors" and "dishonestly pretended to have been the victim of bullying, thereby hurting genuine victims of bullying".
It is alleged that Yarraka Bayles was also defamed because the tweets suggested she uploaded the video "knowing it falsely depicted him as being distressed, to get donations" and "dishonestly coached her son to pretend to be distressed to get donations".
The statement also alleges that Devine and News Corp are liable as publishers of the tweets.
In a world-exclusive interview with NITV News in March, Ms Bayles warned about the repercussions for people spreading misinformation about her family online.
“They obviously haven’t done their homework. A simple Google [search] would save a lot of drama,” she said.
I think it's important for people that are commenting on those public arenas, it can cause very dire consequences ... that just goes to show how stupid people are."