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Abbotsford YouTuber ordered to pay $350K for defaming business

Judge rules that Phil Dong was ‘relentless’ in his online attacks
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YouTuber Phil Dong of Abbotsford has been ordered to pay $350,000 in a defamation lawsuit. (Screenshot from YouTube)

An Abbotsford YouTuber has been ordered to pay $350,000 in damages for defaming a Texas business owner.

In the decision rendered Tuesday (May 14) in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Justice Amy Francis ruled that Si Phung Dong – also known as Phil Dong – of Abbotsford was “relentless in his campaign” against Vuong Pham of Houston, Texas and the defamation was at “the highest end of the seriousness scale.”

The ruling states that Dong, 54, has 12 different YouTube channels through which he provides commentary – almost all in Vietnamese – on a number of issues.

In the summer of 2022, he had more than 200,000 subscribers and his videos attracted tens of thousands of views, court documents state.

Pham runs a company called I Buy Beauty LLC, which does business as Fastboy Marketing to provide marketing and point-of-sale services to nail and beauty salons.

The court documents state that Dong posted on his YouTube channels and other social media platforms that Pham, his company and people associated with him were scammers, fraudsters, communists, money launderers and thieves.

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Dong stated that Pham was stealing the personal and financial data of nail salon owners, employees and customers and was selling that information.

The lawsuit also said that Dong had accused Pham and his business of fraudulently manipulating online reviews and that Pham was an illegal immigrant to the U.S.

The evidence presented in court was translated from Vietnamese into English.

“The defamatory statements went viral on the internet and have been accessed, downloaded and read by many persons all over the world,” Justice Francis said in her ruling.

“They have spurred an online mob to rally against Mr. Pham and his company, which has led to threats of violence and in-person harassment of Mr. Pham and his family.”

She said the campaign began in early January 2022 until Dong’s arrest on Oct. 29, 2022.

Francis said Dong was “relentless” in his campaign against Pham, often posting “multiple times a day on multiple internet platforms.”

An injunction order was issued against Dong on June 4, 2022, requiring him to stop posting statements about Dong and his business.

But Francis said rather than complying with the order, Dong “doubled down” on his attacks.

“(He) posted a breathtaking number of videos in which the false and defamatory statements about the plaintiffs were repeated again and again,” she said.

In October 2022, Dong started a petition on the website Change.org, accusing Pham of human trafficking, money laundering and fraud, Francis said.

Dong was arrested that month and later found guilty of contempt of court for defying the injunction, for which he was sentenced to 18 months’ probation.

Francis said the ongoing online attacks led to Pham and his wife being harassed in public.

“People have called them communists and told them to ‘go back to Vietnam.’ They were threatened by strangers. They did not feel safe in their own community and they were concerned for their children’s safety,” she said.

Francis said Pham’s business was also impacted, with customers cancelling their contracts with Fastboy after Dong wrongly stated that the company stole money from its customers’ credit cards.

Dong argued at trial that nothing he said about Pham or Fastboy was defamatory, that the statements were true, and that Pham suffered no damage to his business.

But Francis said Dong provided no evidence to back up his claims nor did he plead the defences of justification or fair comment.

“His only evidence to support the truth of the many defamatory things he has said about the plaintiffs is a photograph of Mr. Pham posing at a military cemetery in Vietnam, which he says supports the truth of his statement that Mr. Pham is a communist,” the ruling states.

Dong also argued that Pham had defamed him in videos. But the videos that Dong provided as evidence were in Vietnamese, and no English translation was provided.

“ … without any English translation of these videos, I am not in a position to know what Mr. Pham said in them,” Francis said.

In addition to ordering Dong to pay $350,000 in general, aggravated and punitive damages, Francis granted a permanent injunction that prohibits Dong from posting any further comments about Pham or his business.



Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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