In a written order this week, U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras ordered the defendant to pay $2.6 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages after a lawsuit was brought against a Texas woman for defamation, invasion of privacy, public disclosure of private facts, tortious interference, vandalism and infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiff, a Chicago Executive who filed using a pseudonym, retained Ryan Jacobson to seek recourse against a former girlfriend who terrorized him on the Internet as retaliation for ending their relationship.
The judgment has received widespread attention in the wake of legislation throughout the country designed to tackle a surge in cyber-bullying and the distribution of explicit content of individuals without permission online, commonly referred to as “revenge porn.” The defendant created fake social media pages using the plaintiff’s likeness and then connected with hundreds of his unsuspecting friends, family members and work colleagues before flooding them with harassing and embarrassing photos and falsehoods. In some instances, the defendant used a tactic known as “doxxing” to accuse plaintiff of heinous crimes against her and then solicit Craigslist and Instagram users to exact revenge by providing plaintiff’s personal information including his phone number, address, and place of employment.
When asked for a comment by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Ryan stated: “It is a testament to the public’s growing disdain for those who exploit the internet to assassinate someone’s character and standing within their community.” He added, “My client and I will exhaust the remedies available to enforce the judgment against [the defendant], who has continued to post false and debilitating statements about [the plaintiff] on social media as recently as January . . . The financial consequences of [her] actions will soon become very real in the otherwise make-believe world she inhabits online.”