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The Internet And Defamation Laws In Canada

1994 words - 8 pages

How free is freedom of the press in Canada? The freedom of press is guaranteed by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: “Everyone [has] the fundamental freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” (Media Law). However, Section 1 states that the fundamental freedoms in democracy can be limited for justifiable reasons: “The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” (Media Law). There are criminal and common laws on the provincial and federal ...view middle of the document...

In 2008, damages had been awarded in two internet libel cases and there were only 22 libel cases where damages were awarded involved the internet (Proudfoot). Although the number cyber libel cases is relatively low, it is important to note that since the proliferation of internet media, these cases have been increasing. As more users login in and comment on social media sites such as Facebook or on blogs, anyone who publishes on the internet can be considered an author, and their work can become the battleground of a defamation case.
Internet libel cases, are a challenging and obscure area of law because there have not been many cases which can be used as precedents (Proudfoot). According to Roger McConchie, a lawyer with renowned expertise in internet libel cases, most cases were damage was awarded occurred when the individual accused of defamation refused to take down an incendiary comment once they have been warned that it was defamatory (Proudfoot). In British Columbia, the courts awarded $676,000 in damages to plaintiffs who were defamed by an online attack from parent Susan Holstead (Proudfoot). She made posted that they had used drug and alcohol abuse and were conducting in inappropriate behaviour on the internet; she also created a website called “Least Wanted Educators” (Proudfoot). refused to take her comment down and was sued (Proudfoot). Due to the perceived interconnectedness of the web, the plaintiffs and courts saw how the allegations were not confined to a local area: They could be viewed by any member of the public with an internet connection from any area in the world (Proudfoot). According to Miriam Smith, the internet has given “passive aggressive people” a forum to communicate their opinions in an anonymous fashion (Proudfoot). The anonymity often empowers them to make “libellous” comments (Proudfoot).The advocate culture of social media makes it difficult for bloggers to step down and remove defamatory comments (Proudfoot). They need to be viewed as authentic in order to succeed in whatever goals or outcomes they are trying to achieve.
Most cases regarding internet libel suits are dismissed because the particular court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case (“Cyber Libel and Canadian Courts”). Wiebe v. Brouchard, a court case in which a British Columbian resident alleged that a Quebec residents defamed him on her academic website “B.C. Fathers,” was almost dismissed under debates on whether the case should be tried in Quebec, where the laws would be more favourable to the defendant, or in British Columbia, where the laws would be more favourable to the plaintiff (Wiebe vs. Brouchard). The court ruled in favour of the plaintiff. The case is significant because it raises the issue of audience and international reputation damage that was brought up in Susan Holstead’s case. The courts emphasize that “the alleged offending words were published online” (Wiebe v Bouchard). Now, anything published on the internet is...

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