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Watch what you put on Facebook

Mar 16, 2016

How careful should you be on Facebook?

It is well known that people can write a deliberate defamatory statement via social media and not be caught but if you are identified you could be sued for libel.
The following example outlines the required three components to obtain judgment and receive an award of damages.

David Kumar (Plaintiff) is retired and his daughter brought to light that his nephew, Vinod,   was making extremely derogatory statements via Facebook implying extortion . She also received private e-mails from Vinod accusing David of being a terrorist in addition to an extortionist.

Context is crucial in determining the defamatory sense of the words. The effect on the plaintiff’s life and conduct of the defendant can only be determined at a trial with oral evidence.

David is a proud man with extended family in India who he periodically visits and many have read the statements on Facebook. The Plaintiff has had diminished esteem, distress, embarrassment and withdrawal due to the false allegations.

The Plaintiff was awarded $30,000 for damages and $2000 for costs.

The three things required resulting in damages are :
1) That the impugned words were defamatory in the sense that the plaintiff’s reputation is reduced in the eyes of a reasonable person.
2) That the words in fact referred to the plaintiff.
3) That the words were published and seen by at least one person other than the Plaintiff.

If the Plaintiff proves the required elements, the onus then shifts to the to the defendant to advance a defence in order to escape liability.
In the view of the Judge the Facebook Statements and private e-mails meet the three-part test for defamation.

The link below gives the background and statements in detail:
Kumar v Khurana, 2015 ONSC 7858 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/gmm10

Adapted from Ontario Superior Court of Justice