TTC 'Leprechaun' spurs outrage, legal questions
Shaming on social media could lead to defamation case, lawyer warns
A nasty confrontation between two Toronto bus passengers and the viral video it spawned is raising questions about shaming on social media.
A ride on a crowded 72 Pape bus turned ugly for Brenda Davie of Toronto when an unidentified man — since dubbed the “Leprechaun” for his green attire and bowler hat — refused to move his bag so she could sit down.
Davie, describing the incident on Facebook, claimed the man called her an “airhead” and, as things escalated, stomped on her foot. She also claims he pushed her “backwards into a pile of people.”
A video shot by another passenger captured part of the confrontation, but not the alleged assault.
“I'm glad your bag is comfortable,” Davie says at one point.
The man, waving his hand dismissively, responds “La la, you get nothing. Pay attention.”
Davie's post was viewed thousands of times in just a few hours, prompting many to respond with outrage. Some have taken up a search to try to identify the man, and someone created a mock Twitter account @TTCLeprechaun.
But Julia Lefebvre, a lawyer who specializes in social media, said the reaction raises certain legal issues.
"It's one thing to post a picture on social media," she said. "Clearly it's documenting what happened — as far as we know it's not an altered picture — but it's another thing to post comments that go with it. Are you opening yourself up to a defamation action? Potentially."
The man "clearly is being vilified in the media for this," Lefebvre said.
A number of social media sites and hashtags call out bad behaviour on public transit, including two Tumblr blogs aimed at men who sprawl across seats and the hashtag #subwayshaming.
The TTC said it has been unable to find security footage of the incident, though spokesman Brad Ross condemned the man’s behaviour.
"Bags do not belong on seats. Seats are for people. Bags don't pay fares, people do," Ross said.
With files from CBC's Shannon Martin