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In Trinidad...A woman who published defamation claims about a family on Facebook, will have to compensate her victims.

The ruling came on Monday, Justice Frank Seepersad found that Jenelle Burke made a series of unsubstantiated libellous statements that caused the family to suffering “shame and embarrassment” since those statements were false and may have been seen by thousands.

Burke published posts stating that the family was engaged in incestuous activities.

The messages stated that the father of the family was a rapist who would engage in sexual relations with his stepson and daughter who is a minor. Telephone numbers belonging to the family members as well as their photographs were attached to the posts. One of the posts also stated that the minor, who was seven years old at the time, was involved in prostitution at her school.

At the court hearing before Justice Seepersad, the family members denied that such activities had ever taken place.

A number of police reports were made, but the insults continued.

In her defence statement, Burke admitted that the messages were posted on her wall but denied she was the one who did so. Seepersad stated: “The damage which social media postings can have is significant, as the disseminated material creates a perpetual imprint in cyberspace and there is no deletion or rectification which can be effected with respect to information uploaded to the World Wide Web, quite unlike a print copy of a book or newspaper, the copies of which could be destroyed”.

He said: “The reach and permanency of social media is such that, extreme caution has to be exercised by its users. Justice Seepersad said that in the case, the defendant did not dispute that the posts were on her Facebook account but she ran the “Shaggy defence” by saying “it wasn't me”.

Justice Seepersad ruled that Burke pay to her victims damages and costs which shall be assessed by a Master in Chambers at a later date.

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