Malicious Facebook private messages about ex-girlfriend end up costing man €3,000

Court examined whether Facebook private messages or an SMSs could qualify as the subject of a libel case, ruling that they were

A man has been ordered to pay €3,000 in punitive damages to his ex-girlfriend for sending a series of libellous and defamatory private messages about her on Facebook.

Magistrate Francesco Depasquale condemned Conrad Bajada to compensate the plaintiff, his ex-girlfriend, after he sent a number of private messages to her new partner, alleging amongst other things, that she had falsely accused him of rape.

The court noted that after the couple had broken up, he had sent the woman a message in which he threatened to “do all it takes to destroy” her if she started a relationship with someone else.

When she did exactly this, Bajada had sent a string of SMS to her new beau, warning him that he was “another victim” of hers, accusing her of being a “narcissistic psycopath” who had accused her maths teacher, her husband and himself of rape.

A number of other private messages were sent to mutual friends, warning that the woman was a “demon” who habitually hacked into her friends’ Facebook accounts.

Bajada contended that the messages he had sent were all private messages and lacked the element of publicity necessary for libel. He argued that the woman had falsely accused him of rape and that he was undergoing criminal proceedings as a result.

As these accusations were in the public domain, he was entitled to comment about them and had every right to justify himself with persons who were already aware of the allegations she had made in his regard, he argued. The messages were ultimately a request to meet the new boyfriend and discuss the issues with him, he said.

The court examined the issue of whether or not a Facebook private message or an SMS could qualify as the subject of a libel case, ruling that they were, being means of communication. The fact that he had sent the messages to a number of individuals meant that there was publication as required at law for the offence to subsist.

The court went on to note that the ongoing criminal proceedings against Bajada were not about rape, but the spreading of pornographic videos, harassment and misuse of electronic equipment. It also adjudged as highly unlikely his assertion that the woman had hacked his Facebook account to delete a number of messages, in view of the fact that she had exhibited the exchanges in their entirety. It was more likely, held the court, that the man had deleted them himself in an effort to prop up his argument.

Although the messages Bajada sent themselves contained no allegations, the fact that he insisted that a disturbing truth was waiting to be revealed cast a shadow over the woman’s reputation. It also noted that the defendant, intentionally and over a span of time had visited the plaintiff’s Facebook profile several times taking note of who her friends were and sending them friend requests of his own.

This clearly showed the intention of the defendant to cause damage, by spreading the rumours to his ex’s other friends, said the magistrate. The fact that he had written to the woman, saying “I will do all it takes to destroy you. I swear this on my kids life,” helped the court reach its conclusions.

Bajada was found to have defamed and libelled the woman and was condemned to pay her €3,000 in damages, together with all the costs of the case.

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