Facebook and Defamation – Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyer comments on law and tort of breach of privacy
The Courts, with changing times and ever changing technological advances does adapt to ensure wrongful acts (called torts in law) are recognized and victims are properly compensated.
In the recent 2015 case of Hardev Kumar v. Vinod Khurana, the Court found in favour of an individual who was defamed. In doing so, the Court considered comments posted on Facebook which were ultimately found to be libelous (published false statement). The Court found that persons could be defamed (which includes spoken and written words) by means of internet communication such as postings on Facebook.
In this case, the Defendant posted statements on the Plaintiff’s Facebook page that suggested that the Plaintiff was an impecunious extortionist, amongst other things. Moreover, the Defendant communicated messages to the Plaintiff’s daughter in which he expanded on his Facebook comment postings.
The Plaintiff alleged that the comments caused him mental distress and that he felt low self esteem and believed the community viewed him as having lower standing. He received medical care for his injuries.
In applying the general three part test for defamation, the Court found that the written words constituted libel and awarded $15,000 in general damages and $15,000 in aggravated damages to the Plaintiff. The test the Justice applied was as follows:
1. The impugned words must be defamatory, in the sense that they would tend to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person; 2. The words in fact referred to the plaintiff; and 3. The words were published, meaning that they were communicated to at least one person other than the plaintiff.
This Court provides a valuable discussion on the use of the Internet as the means to defame and injure others. The decision is a reminder that comments posted on the Internet can be defamatory and persons who post such comments may be sued for damages. Because posts on the Internet are immediately disseminated and difficult to control, the harm can be immense and quickly done. The use of the Internet also allows wrongdoers to commit such intentional acts to injure others by communicating to a very large immediate audience.
As the Court stated in Barrick Gold Corporation v. Lopehandia et al.: “Communication via the Internet is instantaneous, seamless, interactive, blunt, borderless and far-reaching. It is also impersonal, and the anonymous nature of such communications may itself create a greater risk that the defamatory remarks are believed…
The Internet represents a communications revolution. It makes instantaneous global communication available cheaply to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. It enables individuals, institutions, and companies to communicate with a potentially vast global audience. It is a medium which does not respect geographical boundaries. Concomitant with the utopian possibility of creating virtual communities, enabling aspects of identity to be explored, and heralding a new and global age of free speech and democracy, the Internet is also potentially a medium of virtually limitless international defamation [emphasis added].
…Internet defamation is distinguished from its less pervasive cousins, in terms of its potential to damage the reputation of individuals and corporations, by the features described above, especially its interactive nature, its potential for being taken at face value, and its absolute and immediate worldwide ubiquity and accessibility. The mode and extent of publication is therefore a particularly significant consideration in assessing damages in Internet defamation cases.”
Persons can longer hide behind a computer or communication device when making statements that can cause others injury when those statements are malicious and not truthful.
The content of this article is intended to provide general information only and is not intended nor should be accepted as legal advice. All cases are different and legal advice should always be sought about your specific circumstances.
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