Influencer ordered to pay $200K after court finds she defamed ex-boyfriend online
VANCOUVER -- A Vancouver woman has been ordered to pay her ex-boyfriend $200,000 for attacking him with what a B.C. judge says were lies on social media.
The landmark ruling against Noelle Halcrow represents one of the biggest defamation cases in the province's history.
Halcrow is a self-described style blogger and influencer with more than 17,000 followers on Instagram.
Court documents say she began an on-again, off-again relationship with a business consultant named Brandon Rook in 2015, and that a series of critical social media posts followed after he broke it off.
"She went on and published time and time again, over many days - actually a year, or maybe more than that - various versions of the same statement that the guy was a dog, basically,” said Bryan Baynham, a defamation Lawyer with Harper Grey LLP.
One of the Instagram posts presented in court read: "Known cheater, proud of it! STDs and spread them…"
Supreme Court Justice Elliott Myers ruled that they were lies and that Halcrow was responsible, calling the campaign “relentless” and saying it was conducted “out of spite.”
He listed roughly 100 derogatory and demeaning posts in his judgment, ruling that every single one was false or created out of animosity.
Legal experts say Halcrow’s large online audience made her penalty far higher than usual.
"It's like publishing a defamatory statement to the world. It's worse than publishing it in a newspaper in many cases. It's very serious and you better have the facts to back it up,” said Baynham.
Halcrow claimed she wasn't behind the campaign, but the ruling says the posts were traced back to her IP address.
Text messages threatening to re-post the slurs were also provided in court.
“I told you second I posted pics. This time you need to search for them and figure how many people I tag. Stupidly I took down but easy get back and I own this account names. And only thing you can get deleted on Instagram is porn. My account people say bad things I own it so I can take down two seconds and alerts my phone,” read one of the texts in the Reasons for Judgement.
CTV News reached out to Halcrow, but she declined to comment.
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.
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.
If the posts are anonymous, it's even pricier – meaning not everyone targeted has the same access to justice.
"People think that by using a fake email address that they can hide under it. There's ways to find that out, but it costs several thousands of dollars to get a court order,” Baynham told CTV News.