Noelle Halcrow Vancouver, Canadian Instagram social media influencer found guilty of defamatory smear campaign against ex boyfriend, Brandon Rook and ordered to pay $154K in libel damages.
A social media influencer has been ordered to pay her ex-boyfriend $200, 000 ($154,000 USD) after a Canadian judge ruled she spread rumors online about him infecting his partners with sexually transmitted diseases.
Noelle Halcrow, of Vancouver, began an on-again, off-again relationship with business consultant, Brandon Rook in 2015 — only to shame him online after he broke off romantic relations a year later CTV News reports.
‘Known cheater, proud of it! STDs and spread them …,’ read one of the 65 year old woman’s Instagram posts presented in court in British Columbia.
The roughly 100 demeaning missives which served to ‘defame’ Rook were posted on various Instagram accounts as well as on websites like ‘cheatersandbastards.com’ and ‘stdregistry.org,’ court documents state.
Motivated by malice:
The former boyfriend demanded Halcrow desist before moving forward with a libel suit in which a ruling was made in his favor
The posts were defamatory and sent by Halcrow ‘out of spite,’ Supreme Court Justice Elliott Myers ruled.
Halcrow, who has some 17,900 followers on (a now private) Instagram page, was ‘motivated by malice’ when she sent out the posts over the course of a yearlong smear campaign the judge described as ‘relentless.’
‘The courts have recognized that the internet can be used as an exceedingly effective tool to harm reputations,’ Myers wrote in his opinion. ‘This is one such case.’
Halcrow, a self-described style blogger, claimed she wasn’t behind the slurs, and that they were written by friends and other people, according to the court documents.
But the posts were traced back to her IP address, the court papers say.
Social media presence amplified libel damages:
Her large social media following made the penalty she was slapped with higher than it would be for other users, experts told CTV News.
‘It’s like publishing a defamatory statement to the world,’ said Bryan Baynham, a defamation lawyer.
‘It’s worse than publishing it in a newspaper in many cases,’ he said. ‘It’s very serious and you better have the facts to back it up.’
In addition to the $200,000 Canadian dollar ($154K USD) damages the judge ordered Halcrow to pay Rook, she is also required to pay him about $30,000 in U.S. dollars in special damages to recover the money her ex spent on reputation consultants to remove the postings.
The ruling against Halcrow is one of the biggest defamation cases in British Columbia’s history.
Experts say it’s a precedent-setting decision in an era dominated by social media.
‘What scares me about the world of influencers is a lot of them are running actually quite large businesses with zero business savvy and they’re going out and making some pretty bold claims without a lot of knowledge,’ said Katie Dunsworth-Reiach, co-founder of Talk Shop Media via CTV News.
Dunsworth-Reiach says her team gets lots of requests to clean up clients’ online reputations, but once false statements are out there, they’re hard to erase.
‘Google is a powerful tool and it does live on and it’s very expensive to clean up,’ said Dunsworth-Reiach.
An expense Noelle Halcrow will have to now come to terms with.