Mudslinging on Facebook

2014-08-23 00:00

AN allegedly disgruntled ex-employee and his former employers from Saratoga Stud were ordered yesterday to remove defamatory remarks posted on Facebook about each other.

The court order was granted by Judge Fikile Mokgohloa in chambers after each party agreed to remove all offensive comments from social media pending further legal proceedings.

The court was approached initially by Jennifer and Guy Benson of Saratoga Stud at Karkloof for an order to stop their ex-employee, Ryan Harvey, making allegedly slanderous statements about them and their business on Facebook and elsewhere.

These included comments that the stud farm was closing down, was being reclaimed by the bank, that their horses were being “starved”, and that horses and other animals were ill-treated.

Jennifer said none of the allegations is true and they were designed to damage the reputation of Saratoga Stud, as well as her and her husband.

But when the case came to court, Harvey’s advocate, Chris Hattingh, told the judge it wasn’t all one sided.

He read from an alleged Facebook posting by Jennifer in which she ­accused “Ryan” of stealing her dog.

“Ryan has stolen my dog. He has done everything he can being as dirty and nasty as only someone like him can be but the worst thing he has done in this whole ordeal is he has stolen my pedigreed Australian Shepherd who I have all his papers for in my name … Going to the police tomorrow to open a docket of theft against Ryan. You do not steal a person’s dog.”

It was agreed by Hattingh and attorney Naheem Essop, for Saratoga Stud, that it made sense for each party to undertake to remove all defamatory postings from Facebook pending finalisation of the dispute.

The agreement was made an order of court and the case was adjourned sine die (to a date to be arranged).

In her affidavit, Jennifer said the dispute arose after she and her husband informed Harvey, a horse rider, about their financial situation and that his services were being terminated from the end of June.

This is currently the subject of a CCMA inquiry.

After he left, Jennifer said she got information that he had told people at a horse show that Saratoga Stud no longer existed, that it was closing down and that the stallions were being sold.

He also allegedly told a client that the stud was being reclaimed by the bank, that her horses hadn’t been fed for three weeks and she should get them off the farm as soon as possible.

Jennifer said the Coastal Horse Care Unit held an unannounced inspection on June 20. In its report, attached to the court papers, they found Saratoga Stud runs a professional operation and found no welfare issues.

MIKE Saunders, CEO of DigitLab (a Durban-based digital marketing strategy company dealing with social media strategies for top South African brands), said the public needs to be careful about information they share on social media.

“If you are going to make an issue public, make sure that the facts can be backed up.”

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