Social media has been a popular way of communicating with others for some time now. However, caution must be exercised when using social media. As a recent court decision shows, legal damages can be very high when defamatory comments are made.
In Emeny v. Tomaszewski, the plaintiff and the defendant were both comedians. The defendant accused the plaintiff on Twitter of being a predator who drugs women without their consent.
As a result of these comments, the plaintiff missed out on work opportunities. Further, he stated that the comments caused him to suffer from significant mental health illnesses.
In a motion for default judgment, Justice Sossin referred to a Supreme Court of Canada decision which indicated: “the rapid expansion of the Internet coupled with the surging popularity of social networking services like Facebook and Twitter has created a situation where everyone is a potential publisher, including those unfamiliar with defamation law. A reputation can be destroyed in the click of a mouse, an anonymous email or an ill-timed Tweet”.
Justice Sossin stated that the criteria to be considered in determining the appropriate amount of damages must be seen in the context of social media, where the communication is shared instantly and is subject to “worldwide ubiquity and accessibility”.
The plaintiff was awarded general damages of $250,000, special damages for loss of income of $100,000, and punitive damages of $100,000, for a total award of $450,000 plus costs.