In May 2011, I wrote about a case from Nova Scotia which I referred to as the “Facebook Bullying Case”. This case involves a teenage girl who was bullied and defamed on a fake Facebook page. To address this problem, her parents brought an application to the Court for an order revealing the identity of her alleged online harassers. At the same time, the girl asked that the Court issue a publication ban, concealing her identity. The rationale behind the request was that, if her identity is revealed, the psychological harm that had been caused to her by the online bullying is likely to be exacerbated.
The motion judge granted the girl’s application, however, her request for a publication ban was overruled by Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. The girl’s parents recently brought an application for leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
This case raises important issues that, although not unique, are commonplace in the internet era. The conflict between the right to privacy and freedom of expression is not new. In the internet context, however, that conflict is significantly heightened, as these opposing constitutional rights become difficult to control. This is especially so given the global reach of the internet.
To our children, the internet is and will be a normal part of their lives, like television and radio were to prior generations. The difference between these modes of media, however, is in their accessibility. While we did not have the ability to control what is broadcasted on the radio and TV airwaves, our children can do so with a click of a mouse. So, how do we protect them from becoming a target of online bullying or, on the other side of the spectrum, a target of a defamation lawsuit?
This question is in need of an answer. It is for that, and other reasons, that I believe the Supreme Court of Canada should be granting the girl in the Facebook Bullying Case her request for leave to appeal.
Maanit Zemel, Associate
Miller Thomson LLP
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