Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cyberbullying--Supreme Court of Canada protects the identity of child victims

The Supreme Court of Canada's decision A.B. v. Bragg CommunicationsA.B. v. Bragg Communications  issued last Thursday will make it easier for children  to sue their cyberbullies anonymously.

In this case the lower courts had turned down an application by a 15 year old girl for permission to anonymously apply for a court order requiring an internet service provider to disclose the address of  whoever had created a phony Facebook profile of her so that she could sue them.  The courts  had also denied her request that the Facebook content be kept confidential as it contained offensive and sexually explicit statements.  According to the lower court rulings, the girl had failed to prove that she had or would suffer real and substantial harm.

The girl appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  The Supreme Court overturned the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on the issue of  the anonymous application but upheld the ruling regarding the content of the Facebook page.  According to the Supreme Court,  in cases of sexualized cyberbullying it is not necessary to prove real and substantial harm to a particular child as a court can rely on the inherent vulnerability of children that has long been recognized in Canadian law.

The case engaged a balancing of the principles of an open court system and freedom of the press on one hand and the privacy rights of children on the other. On the matter of identity  the court came down on the side of the child plaintiff ruling that her identity should be protected.  However, when it came to the non-identifying content of the Facebook page, the court came down on the side of the open court system and freedom of the press. 

The case is also useful because it illustrates the legal process to be used in obtaining the identity of cyberbullies. 


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