Friends’ Facebook class reunion plans go wrong, end in defamation lawsuit

FACEBOOK FRIENDS NO MORE::The two women embroiled in a courtroom dispute were once said to be as close as sisters, but ended up engaging in a public spat

By Peng Chien-li and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

Sun, Oct 07, 2012 - Page 3

A woman took legal action against her friend following a dispute over the hosting of a class reunion and online pictures used to accompany the event.

Preliminary investigations by prosecutors found the two women, surnamed Chen (陳) and Huang (黃), have known each other for more than 20 years and had been acquaintances since elementary school.

Earlier this year the two women, who were said to have been as close as sisters, discussed holding a class reunion during which they fell out over their different ideas about how to stage the event, prosecutors said.

The two argued many times over the issue and even traded insults on the day of the reunion, held on Feb. 1, which led to a rather unhappy meeting and an even unhappier farewell, prosecutors said.

After the reunion, Huang deleted Chen from her Facebook friends, which further alienated Chen, who in turn, took to covering photos featuring Huang’s face with an image of a pile of excrement.

Friends of Chen, who saw the online photos became curious and asked why Huang’s face was covered in that manner, to which she responded angrily: “[She’s] the one who’s completely out of it and being dumb.”

More than 260 people saw the pictures with Chen’s comments and “Liked” the comment.

After being informed about the matter, Huang printed off Chen’s Facebook comment — along with the photographs — which she presented as evidence in a bid to sue Chen for defamation.

Prosecutors said they felt the charges for public defamation were substantiated given that Chen’s Facebook had not been restricted in any way, meaning that all the content she had uploaded was accessible by any Facebook user, as well as the fact that Chen had made derogatory comments in response to a question aimed at Chen meaning that Chen’s comments were enough to compromise Huang’s character and social status.

However, prosecutors said that Chen had deleted the offensive comments afterward, and given that it was an act carried out in the heat of the moment, they would be applying for a summary judgement.

Summary judgement is applied when either the defendant pleads guilty to the crime or the court feels it has enough evidence to declare the defendant guilty, but that the crime committed is minor enough to warrant a deferral of sentence, a prison sentence of no more than six months in length or a sentence that can be exchanged for a fine.