Another strike in the win column for anti-online defamation law and reputation management. A supreme court ruling in British Columbia has awarded the defendant in the latest case to pay $200,000 in damages, plus $40,000 to cover reputation consultant costs, plus legal fees.
The ruling by Justice Elliott Myers stated: “the courts have recognized that the internet can be used as an exceedingly effective tool to harm reputations. This is one such case.”
According to the ruling, Vancouver native Noelle Halcrow made a series of false online posts that claimed her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Rook, had a sexually transmitted disease, was an alcoholic and had cheated on her. Halcrow posted the defamatory content on Instagram and three other websites soon after Rook ended their romantic relationship.
Halcrow tried to deny that she posted the content; instead, claiming it was friends of the former couple who was responsible. Despite her claims, Justice Myers rejected the plea on four facts:
• Halcrow’s IP address was used to make the posts
• Rook had text messages from Halcrow threatening to put up the posts
• The posts were very similar to texts that she had sent.
• Halcrow had the motivation to make the 92 offensive posts.
To guide him in his ruling, Justice Myers examined two recent cases around online defamation in British Columbia; the first of which involved a wedding planner who was awarded $115,000 after a customer made several social media attacks about the business. In the second case, the B.C Recreation and Parks Association was awarded $106,000 over false accusations made online.
An injunction in the case also prevents Halcrow from ever re-posting any of the offending content online in the future.
With the popularity of the internet and social media sites, defamation claims are surfacing more often than not. Typically, once a defamatory statement is published on the Internet, the damage is already done. On the bright side, cases like Rook Vs. Halcrow are proving that a person better think twice before hitting the ‘post’ button on derogatory content about someone else.