It’s a new year, but to the surprise of absolutely no one, influencers are still on their bullsh*t. 2019 was full of influencer scandals ranging from stolen handbags to shilling actual poison, and based on today’s story, 2020 won’t be any different. This week, a Canadian influencer was ordered to pay her ex $145,000 for spreading false rumors that he had STDs, which like, oof. The decision was a landmark case in the laws surrounding defamation in British Columbia, and also a landmark case in proving that your ex might not be that bad after all.
At the center of this case, we have Noelle Halcrow, a Vancouver influencer with an astounding 17,000 followers on Instagram. In the age of mega-influencers, that’s not a lot, but whatever, it’s still more followers than I have. Sadly, her page is private (waiting to see if my follow request is accepted), but all of the reports about the case call her a “style blogger and influencer”, so I guess at one point she like, posted her outfits on Instagram. One time, I influenced my friends to get Taco Bell when we were drunk, so truly anyone can be an influencer.
According to court documents, Noelle Halcrow “began an on-again, off-again relationship with a business consultant named Brandon Rook in 2015,” but he broke things off for good in 2016. The fact that this was an “on-again, off-again” relationship from the start is definitely a bad sign, but sadly, the court documents don’t give a detailed summary of the entire relationship. It’s really rude of them not to paint a full picture of the red flags in this situation, but either way, the relationship didn’t last.
According to a statement from Rook’s lawyer, after the breakup, Noelle “went on and published time and time again, over many days—actually a year, or maybe more than that—various versions of the same statement that the guy was a dog, basically.” Okay, so Noelle was maybeee a little obsessed with this dude. Given the timeline from the court documents, they weren’t together for more than a year (and they were on/off during that time), so she kept posting sh*t about this dude for longer than the relationship even lasted. Yikes.
Just to get a little taste, here’s the text of an Instagram post from Halcrow that was shown in court: “Known cheater, proud of it! STDs and spread them…” Cute! There were over 100 messages like this shared as evidence, and not just from her own account. According to the court documents, Halcrow made multiple Instagram accounts for the rumors, as well as websites such as “cheatersandbastards.org” and “stdregistry.org”. (Before you go checking that second domain, it’s not a site that actually exists.) That’s commitment. In a classic move, Halcrow tried to pretend she wasn’t the one who posted all of these messages, but that her friends did it. Suuuure. A “friend” whose name is Shmoelle Shmalcrow? Sadly for her, the posts were all traced back to Noelle’s IP address, because she was not exactly Mr. Robot.
And even worse, after initially deleting some of the messages, Halcrow TEXTED ROOK threatening to post them again. This text is truly deranged: “I told you second I posted pics. This time you need to search for them and figure how many people I tag. Stupidly I took down but easy get back and I own this account names. And only thing you can get deleted on Instagram is porn. My account people say bad things I own it so I can take down two seconds and alerts my phone.” Okay, this woman needs to get a f*cking grip (on her sanity, and the English language). Not only is she unhinged, but she’s also wrong. You can get plenty of stuff taken down off Instagram as long as it gets reported, as evidenced by the time I made a joke about how people who drink extra-strength Five Hour Energy should just grow up and do cocaine, and Instagram removed it for “promoting drug use”.
In the judge’s decision against Halcrow, he called her smear campaign against Rook “relentless” and “out of spite,” which sounds like how my stomach reacts after I eat too much Chipotle. Sorry, TMI. The judgment for $154,000 is one of the largest defamation awards in the history of British Columbia, and legal experts say it sends an important message in the age of people saying whatever tf they want on social media. Media consultant Katie Dunsworth-Reiach said that even when messages are deleted, “Google is a powerful tool, and it does live on and it’s very expensive to clean up.” Basically, don’t spread false rumors that your ex has STDs, in Canada at least, because that sh*t could come back to haunt you. It might feel better in the moment, but the $154K judgment against you sure won’t.
Images: mooshny / Shutterstock.com
Another day, another example of influencers doing problematic sh*t. This is par for the course in 2019, but somehow, these stories never fail to amuse me like it’s the first time. But rather than some subpar photoshopping or a gross apartment, today’s influencer tale involves an entire country. A bunch of travel influencers got paid to visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and my friends, it ain’t a good look.
In case you aren’t super familiar with what’s going on in Saudi Arabia, it’s not like, great. The country is a human rights nightmare with a history of discrimination against women, and the government frequently beheads its enemies. In particular, the Saudi government came under fire last year for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was an advocate for more progressive policies in the country.
But now, Saudi Arabia is turning its focus to tourism, and is preparing to expand its visa program to many new countries. It’s a change meant to decrease the country’s dependence on oil and diversify the economy, but Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly the most warm and inviting place to visit. To help spread their new tourism-friendly image, the Saudi tourism board recently hosted a handful of travel influencers on a tour of some of the most scenic spots in the kingdom.
Here’s an example of what the posts looked like:
View this post on Instagram
Ad Last week I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to experience the diverse & beautiful Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which has now opened it’s doors to the rest of the world! 🇸🇦 This is Mada’in Saleh, an incredible Nabatean Kingdom which was built more than 2,000 years ago! This tomb, known as Qasr al-Farid, was carved into a massive boulder around the 1st century CE, but was never actually finished. #WelcomeToArabia @visitsaudi
Before I say anything else, I can’t resist: *its
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, where was I? Oh yeah, the rest of this mess. All of the posts are declared as ads, which means that the influencers weren’t just given a free trip, but were actually paid to post about their trip. And they weren’t getting paid for any kind of mediocre reviews. Each post has a caption gushing about the wonders of Saudi Arabia, and conveniently leaving out any mention of the very real issues in the country.
As one Instagram commenter put it: “Yeah, let’s just forget about the discrimination against women, the lack of a few basic human rights, and the corruption. As long as they have beautiful tourist attractions, it doesn’t really matter, right?” Oof.
All of the captions are cringeworthy, but Dubai-based luxury influencer Lana Rose really takes the cake for me:
This entire trip shouldn’t have been a thing, but the Aladdin comparison is really sending me over the edge. Lana probably doesn’t realize this, but Aladdin is a fictional story that takes place in the fictional kingdom of Agrabah, not Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, Princess Jasmine’s iconic crop top could literally get her arrested in 2019, where women are still forbidden from wearing clothes that “show off their beauty.” I’m pretty sure the government wouldn’t take kindly to a street rat like Aladdin coming in and f*cking things up at the palace, either. But like, go off sis! Live your fantasy!
Obviously, the issues in Saudi Arabia are complex, and I’m not suggesting that no one should ever travel there. But there’s a big difference between choosing to go on a trip on your own, and literally being paid by the government to post about how wonderful the country is and completely gloss over the human rights violations taking place there. I’m pretty sure the influencer trip didn’t include a seminar on the government beheadings. Just a guess.
One of the spots that the influencers visited on their trip was the Edge of the World, a spot in the desert. That looks sick, and I would love to go there someday, but not enough that I would be able to ignore all the sh*t that’s happening there. Free trips are cool, but all press trips are not created equal. I have a feeling that these influencers didn’t do their research before agreeing to do these ads, which is kind of ridiculous in an age where Twitter is a viable news source and it doesn’t even take a lot of effort to be somewhat informed.
Influencer culture isn’t a new thing anymore, and it’s time that we hold these people to a little higher standard. If your entire job is based on using your platform to share recommendations and tell people where they should spend their money, it’s your responsibility to do your research and ask questions. Whether all of these influencers didn’t know about the political climate in Saudi Arabia, or just didn’t care, they should have done better, and I have a feeling we will be seeing a few Notes App apologies rolling out on their feeds pretty soon.
Images: Toa Heftiba / Unsplash; izkiz, lanarose786, Jacob / Instagram