Is your boss or co-worker getting on your nerves? Are you irritated with your neighbour? Do you feel like venting out by writing some nasty stuff about them on Twitter or on a blog? If you do it anonymously, no harm done, right?
Wrong. We all take our reputation very seriously, and rightly so. A person’s reputation contributes greatly to his or her personal and professional success. Similarly, a business’ reputation and goodwill are significant contributors to its financial strength.
When you post something online, you leave a cyber-trail, which, with varying degrees of difficulty, can be traced back to you. When you go as far as defaming someone online, that person can apply to a Canadian court for an order requiring your Internet service provider to disclose your identity and contact information.
In York University v. Bell Canada Enterprises et al, for example, York University alleged that its professors were being defamed by anonymous bloggers online. The postings were made by someone with a “Gmail” account. An order was issued against Google, requiring it to disclose the Internet protocol addresses associated with the Gmail account. Google complied with the order, and it was revealed that the anonymous bloggers were customers of Bell Canada and Rogers Communications. The Ontario court issued another order against Bell and Rogers, requiring them to reveal the identities of the anonymous bloggers.
Once your identity is uncovered, you might face a defamation lawsuit in Canada or elsewhere and, if the victim is your employer or co-worker, you might also find yourself without a job. So, the next time you are feeling frustrated and need to blow off some steam, stay off the Internet. Try writing in your old-fashioned personal diary (the one stashed away in your nightstand), or maybe take a yoga class.
Maanit Zemel, Associate
Miller Thomson LLP
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