The Fake Facebook Profile And The Veiled Victim

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Originally published in Internet and E-Commerce Law in Canada - December 2012 Volume 13, No. 8.

In A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc., the Supreme Court of Canada determined that a 15-year-old can proceed anonymously to pursue the identity of her Facebook cyberbully.

Background -

The 15-year-old, A.B., found out that someone had posted a fake Facebook profile with her picture, a modified version of her name, and other identifying particulars. The profile also included demeaning comments about A.B.’s appearance and sexually explicit references.

Facebook provided the IP address associated with the Nova Scotia account holder. The Internet provider, Eastlink, agreed to provide more specific information about the address if a court authorized it to do so. A.B. brought an application for such an order and, along with the application, requested (i) permission to seek the identity of the Facebook cyberbully anonymously (the “anonymity request”) and (ii) a publication ban on the content of the fake Facebook profile.

While Eastlink did not oppose these privacy requests, the Halifax Herald and Global Television did. The Nova Scotia court granted the order requiring Eastlink to disclose the information about the identity of the cyberbully. However, it denied A.B.’s anonymity request and the publication ban on the basis that she had not proved specific harm to her that would outweigh restricting access to the media. Put simply, the media’s right to access and report on the facts of the case outweighed A.B.’s right to privacy. This was upheld at the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

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