(WSVN) - You see the posts online all the time: name calling, insults, on and on. But what happens when someone posts a lie about someone else? Can they do that? That question answered in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
When you go online, you can find cute puppies, useful reviews and, of course, angry foul rants.
Liz Ferreira, Gess Technologies: “Most people that post reviews are happy, but nobody has ever attacked any of us personally.”
Liz and her husband own Gess Technologies.
Patrick Fraser: “Someone comes in and says, ‘I have a warehouse 100 feet long…'”
Liz Ferreira: “This one would be an excellent solution for it.”
Providing top of the line surveillance cameras for businesses and homes.
Liz Ferreira: “If you want quality video for video surveillance at home, we are a perfect solution.”
But it wasn’t something Liz saw on video that surprised her. It was online.
Liz Ferreira: “Yes, there is a level of frustration.”
It began when Liz’s staff discovered that an employee had stolen $17,000 worth of equipment from them. They confronted him.
Liz Ferreira: “When we asked, he admitted he took merchandise.”
Liz contacted the Hialeah Police about the theft. A detective met with the man.
Liz Ferreira: “And said that we were falsely accusing him.”
Liz then showed the police some of the proof like this text the former employee sent that said, “I did not mean to steal. I was happy working there, and I know I let u guys down.”
Charges were then filed.
Liz Ferreira: “With fraud but also lying to law enforcement.”
But Liz’s troubles didn’t go away. Someone claiming to be a woman named Nah wrote on the Gess Technology Google Review page that it was Liz who had stolen the property from her own business.
Liz Ferreira: “They accused me of embezzling from my husband using racial remarks and accusing of employees of stealing, so I could get away with my stuff.”
Liz says the picture of the poster didn’t match anyone who ever worked for them, meaning it was either an impostor writing the post or someone who knew about the man who was fired.
Liz Ferreira: “I thought that was written by someone who knew this story.”
Liz asked Google Review to take it down. They did, but three days later, the nasty lie was back online.
Liz Ferreira: “And this is not hurting only me but the overall team and the business.”
Well Howard, here is the lie where Liz was called a thief. What can she do about it?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “This is libel, and in fact, it’s a higher degree of libel called libel per se, and that’s because the law assumes the target has been damaged, and you can even get punitive damages to punish the poster. Clearly, the law takes posting lies seriously.”
We saw the accused thief in court. He told 7News he told a friend about getting fired, and his friend’s sister created the online post about Liz.
He said he didn’t know she had done it, and it turns out, the two charges against him were the first time he was accused of crimes.
He told 7News identifying him on Help Me Howard would make it impossible for him to get a job. We told him we would not identify him if the post was taken down and stayed down.
So far, it has.
Howard Finkelstein: “Online, you can share your opinion. You can call someone an idiot because it’s your opinion, but you cannot accuse someone of something they did not do or lie about anything that the target can prove is not true, and if they sue, it can cost the poster a lot of money.”
As for the former employee who admitted stealing from her — and was partly responsible for the lying online post — Liz is classy and wishes the best for him.
Liz Ferreira: “I hope he learns his lesson. He moves forward in life and doesn’t do this to anybody else again.”
Now, what if someone is posting something about you online from an anonymous or fake account? How do you catch them? It can be done. You have to get a judge to order the website where it was posted to provide the records to help track down the person who wrote the lies about you.
Caught a crook on camera? Don’t want them to get out of line? No lie, we want to help because we are “libel” to find a solution for you for free.
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