Those who post slander on Facebook or other social networking sites could face high fines beginning in the near future, Judge Ron Solkin has warned. Judge Solkin issued his warning as he ordered a woman from Arad, in southern Israel, to pay a 10,000 shekel fine for a post she made on Facebook.
The court case began when a woman from Arad bought 41.5 shekels’ worth of goods at a local supermarket. Later that day, the woman returned to the supermarket and reported that she had given the cashier 200.5 shekels, and had been given just 60 shekels in change instead of 160; she said she had not immediately noticed she had been shortchanged.
The supermarket owner rejected her claim, and said she had given the cashier just 100.5 shekels – the amount listed at the register.
The upset woman then wrote about her experience on a local Facebook group whose members include thousands of residents of Arad. She related her story, and argued that being short-changed at the grocery store was “a repeating phenomenon.” She urged other residents to check the amount of change they were given immediately after making a purchase.
In response, the storeowner filed a lawsuit for 200,000 in damages, arguing that the woman had wrongly slandered his store and caused him to lose business.
The woman, for her part, argued that what she had written was true, and that even if she had been mistaken, she had not intended to lie.
Judge Solkin concluded that the storeowner was correct in saying the woman had not been short-changed. The woman had no evidence of her claim, he noted, while the storeowner provided documentation and evidence.
He rejected the storeowner’s claim to have suffered financial loss due to the woman’s post to Facebook. There was no proof of financial damage, he said, and a look at the Facebook group in question showed that many had countered the woman’s claim when it was posted, and that the allegedly slanderous post was in any case quickly pushed down the list by other posts.
However, Judge Solkin decided to order the woman to pay a 10,000 shekel fine regardless of the lack of proven financial consequences to her actions.
The public has not yet internalized the need for self-restraint on social networking sites, he said. He told the woman that he was giving a relatively lenient sentence due to the fact that slander is common on such sites.
In the future, he warned, it is likely that those who write damaging or untrue posts on social networking sites will be called upon to pay even higher fines.