Singapore—Vaune Phan, a social media influencer and blogger, was awarded S$60,000 in damages on Tuesday morning (Dec 15) after winning her defamation suit in the State Courts.
The court determined that Mark Yeow had defamed Ms Phan on four occasions in 2019 in three Facebook posts and in one post on a WhatsApp chat group.
Mr Yeow is a chief mechanic at a motorcycle workshop and the operations director at another.
The straitstimes.com (ST) reports that Mr Yeow had insinuated that Ms Phan had not told the truth in proceedings at the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) over Ms Phan’s dispute with Revology Bikes, another motorcycle shop.
Revology Bikes caused damage to her motorbike in reinstalling a camera to it, saying a “sizeable gap” had been left between the fairings and the body of the motorcycle, Ms Phan said on Dec 21, 2018, in her SCT claim.
She posted about her experience with Revology on Facebook on Dec 30 of that year. Mr Yeow commented on this post, accusing her of cyberbullying and calling her a number of names including “cheapskate”, “freeloader” and “poser.”
In the following month, he questioned her integrity in a Facebook post, as well as the claim she made concerning the damage Revology had allegedly done to her bike, tagging other motorcycle workshops as well as Ms Phan’s business partners and present and possible sponsors.
In March, the same month the SCT ordered Revology to pay Ms Phan S$4,630 in compensation, Mr Yeow sent a link to his Facebook post to a chat group on WhatsApp, where he also mentioned “cheating” and “karma.”
He was later asked by Ms Phan’s lawyers to take the post down, as well as his comments on her post.
However, Mr Yeow publicly commented again concerning Ms Phan on a post on the Samsung Facebook account, an advertisement with Ms Phan promoting a mobile phone.
Using another account, he told Samsung that it “should do some homework and fact-finding before hiring an influencer” and to look for others “who can show you what dirt biking means”.
The ad was taken down, and Ms Phan’s contact to endorse the phone was terminated.
District Judge Wong Peck ruled that Ms Phan’s reputation had been affected by Mr Yeow’s statement, rejecting Mr Yeow’s assertion that her popularity was already decreasing even before he made his comments.
On the contrary, the judge found that Ms Phan’s social media following and presence were extensive. She added that Mr Yeow’s comments were unjustified and disagreed that Ms Phan had caused Revology to lose business.
Judge Wong added, “As the SCT ruling stands and Revology has paid compensation to the plaintiff pursuant to such ruling, I disagree how such facts when made public can constitute cyberbullying.”
Mr Yeow has also been ordered to pay legal costs to Ms Phan and to take down the statements he made on social media, as well as to desist from making further demeaning comments about her.
However, Judge Wong said no to the social media influencer’s claim for $6,404 in damages for Ms Phan’s terminated contract with Samsung, as Ms Phan had not proven that it had been because of Mr Yeow’s comments.
Ms Phan thanked her lawyers and said that she did not file her lawsuit for personal gain. “After recovery of my full legal costs, I will donate the remainder of the damages… to charity,” she said in a statement to ST.
Mr Yeow plans on appealing against the court’s decision.
“It can be terrifying to know that a person whom you never knew existed could be so relentless in his acts of malice towards you, attacking your work and personal life.
But finally on 15th Dec 2020, the State Court have ordered him to pay S$104,427.80 in damages and legal costs, and an Injunction for his past, present and future defamatory actions towards me. I hope he realises that there are other least expensive and foolish ways to get a girl’s attention….
As quoted by Mr Suresh Divyanathan, “This judgment sets an important precedent in showing that social media personalities who are wrongfully defamed online can recover substantial damages from the perpetrators. Netizens should take this as a timely warning that their behaviour online should be no less civilized than their behaviour in person because Singapore Courts will not tolerate internet defamation.”
Like I said, think twice before you slander someone because at the end of the day, you get served what you deserve.”
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