When Love Goes Wrong: Why It’s Never A Good Idea To Vent About Your Ex OnlineFeb 21 2020
In a recent BC court decision, it was recognized that the internet is a dangerous tool that can be used to harm reputations when a woman was ordered to pay her ex-boyfriend over $200,000 for engaging in an online defamatory campaign
The case arose from several statements the woman made about her ex-boyfriend. They had dated for one month in August 2015. Then in February 2016, they began dating again and later that year in July, he ended the relationship.
Shortly after that, the woman mounted what would be a yearlong campaign against him that would prove to be relentless, extensive and malicious.
Her online activity involved numerous postings on Instagram and other websites. These postings included such words and phrases as “Known cheater, proud of it! STDs and spread them”, “This guy has herpes and hurts women!!”, “Known liar in all aspects”, “#brandonrook”, “#drunk”, “#loser”, “#whatswrongwithperople”, “#fat”, and “#uncaring”.
As all of these statements were false and unfounded, her ex-boyfriend sued her for damages for the defamatory posts.
WHAT IS DEFAMATION?
In order to succeed in an action for defamation, three elements must be proven:
- The statement must be defamatory – it is a statement that will harm the reputation of a person in his or her community and causes a person to be regarded with feelings of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear or dislike.
- The statement must refer to the plaintiff (in this case, the ex-boyfriend).
- The statement must be communicated or published for a third party to see (in this case, the statements were posted online).
Once these elements are proven, a claim in defamation will succeed unless a defendant can establish a valid defense.
THE COURT’S FINDINGS
In this particular case, the ex-boyfriend was able to successfully prove all three elements of defamation and the court held that it was clear the posts were ultimately defamatory in nature.
- While the court did not specifically address whether the posts referred to the ex-boyfriend, many of the posts either referred to him by name or picture.
- The court held that from the number of comments and viewings on many of the postings, it was clear that the posts were brought to the attention of third parties.
The woman tried to claim that she did not publish the posts in question however the court held that there was very clear and compelling evidence that she had, in fact, been responsible for making them, pointing to four facts while arriving at this conclusion:
- The posts were sent from her IP address.
- She texted her ex-boyfriend about removing, re-posting and creating more posts.
- The language used in the posts were similar to the texts she sent to her ex-boyfriend.
- The ex-boyfriend was able to provide no other evidence of anyone else who had the motivation to make the posts.
After successfully proving his case, the ex-boyfriend was awarded $175,000 to compensate him for the distress caused by his ex-girlfriend and to repair and vindicate his reputation. He was also awarded a further $25,000 since the court considered the ex-girlfriend’s conduct to be malicious. Further to that, the woman was also required to pay the plaintiff roughly $39,353.73 to cover his costs for hiring a reputable service to remove the posts.
If you have any questions about statements you have made or statements that have been made about you, contact one of RDM’s civil litigation team members today to schedule a consultation.