In April 2012, the Superior Court of Québec rendered a decision (9080-5128 Québec inc. v. Morin-Ogilvy, 2012 QCCS 1464) that has a direct impact on the use of social media applications to which both adults and children are growing more accustomed.
In this case, one of the defendants used Facebook to vent her frustrations concerning one of the plaintiffs, a former friend. Following the deterioration of relations between the parties, including a disagreement over the repair of the defendant’s car at an automobile repair shop wned by the plaintiff, the defendant published comments on her Facebook Wall and sent messages privately through Facebook regarding the plaintiff, her daughter and her conduct surrounding the car repairs.
The Court found that the messages were insulting, injurious and defamatory, and went well beyond the summary of an unsatisfactory situation. Despite having many Facebook friends, the Court noted that the effect of the defendant’s comments was limited in scope since only those who knew the affiliation between the defendant, the plaintiff and her daughter, who were aware that the plaintiff owned that auto repair shop and understood French (the comments were written in French) would understand the meaning of the comments. Another mitigating factor in awarding damages was that the comments were only published for two days and subsequently deleted.
This decision is a reminder that the prevalence and ease of use of social media can dangerously facilitate and exacerbate defamation online.