CCLA Publishes Court Findings
Posted by auroracitizen on July 28, 2011
Ontario Court Protects Political Speech and Internet Anonymity
July 25th, 2011
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently issued a decision on a motion brought by the former mayor of the municipality of Aurora. The former mayor has sued some of her former constituents for defamation based on comments posted on a local Aurora blog which are critical of her work in office.
As part of her lawsuit, she brought a motion asking the Court to order the known parties to reveal identifying information about an anonymous blogger(s). The CCLA intervened in this case to argue that a high threshold should be met before the Court should order the release of this kind of information. The Court should pay particular attention to whether there is a prima facie case of defamation established (i.e. whether, on the surface, a case of defamation can be made out), and should weigh and balance the concerns about freedom of expression and privacy with the interests in obtaining disclosure. CCLA argued that the rights of citizens to comment on and criticize the performance of their public officials is crucial in a democracy, and civil defamation suits should not be used as a means of silencing this kind of expression.
The Superior Court has found that the former mayor is not entitled to the identifying information she was seeking because she had not established a prima facie case of defamation. The former mayor had not laid out the particular statements she alleged were defamatory and, as a result, the Court held that they could not determine whether her case was, on its surface, sufficient to establish defamation. The Court also noted that the bloggers in this case had a reasonable expectation of anonymity since they did not have to identify themselves in order to participate in the blog. The CCLA is pleased that the Court has taken the concerns of privacy and political speech seriously.
Read the CCLA’s factum here.
Read the Superior Court’s decision here.