Caution: What you say on Facebook could cost you – plenty.
Last week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge slammed an Abbotsford woman with an order to pay $67,500 in damages after she posted highly derogatory comments about a neighbour on Facebook.
The case stands as a prime example of the utter disregard some users of social media display in terms of the potential impact, and consequences, of their comments about other people.
The court heard that the woman became embroiled in a dispute with her next-door neighbour – a local teacher – involving his complaints about noise from her waterfall and messy visits by her dog. Her posts and responses on her open Facebook site included suggestions that he was a pedophile who was videotaping her children – accusations which were discounted in court.
While the woman said she was merely “venting,” the judge found the comments to be “thoughtless” and “reckless” with a deeply damaging effect on the man and his reputation as a teacher.
Unfortunately, social media is rife with this kind of vitriol, flung around with cruel abandon, focused at people for the flimsiest of excuses, often targeting their gender, race or mere opinions.
Such behaviour has become so widespread that some media outlets have turned off commenting on their websites, unwilling to be vehicles for such ugliness and, in turn, liable for it.
It is sad and very disturbing that so many users of social media seem to think that posting on these platforms is a free-for-all, carrying no obligation to observe basic rights and respect.
The judge has clearly ruled otherwise, and thankfully so.
It’s a powerful message to those who feel civility and accountability don’t exist in the realm of social media.
Indeed, they do. And so does the law.