The recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Baglow v. Smith (2011 ONSC 5131) is notable for observers of Canadian defamation law because it demonstrates the continued advance of the tendency of courts to take full account of the context in which allegedly defamatory comments are made. At the risk of over-simplifying the matter, the court's decision can be summarized as this: there is something meaningfully different about online statements, particularly those which are made on political blogs and discussion forums, which militates that they be treated differently for purposes of defamation law. Put somewhat differently (and, again, with the qualification that this over-simplifies matters): impugning someone's name on the broadcast evening news is different from impugning their name on a blog.
Omar Ha-Redeye has posted a lengthy and detailed discussion of the case over at slaw (Online Defamation on Political Blogs in Baglow v. Smith), and Matthew Nied has likewise put up a thoughtful post on his own blog which is well worth reading (Baglow v. Smith: Removing the Defamatory Sting From Online Debates on Blogs and Message Boards). The basic factual elements of the case are concisely explained by Nied as follows...
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