A teenage girl won the right on Thursday to anonymously pursue her cyberbully for defamation, successfully convincing Canada’s top court that she could be victimized again if her identity is published.
(The 15-year-old found out that someone had posted a fake Facebook profile using her picture, accompanied by unflattering commentary about her appearance and sexually explicit references.)
Through her father she sought a court order requiring the Internet provider to disclose the identity of the person or persons who used the IP address to publish the profile.
A lower court granted her application, but denied her request for anonymity and for a publication ban on the content of the Facebook profile, which media groups opposed.
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed on the “critical importance” of open courts and a free press.
However it also found that the privacy and protection of children from cyberbullying are crucial, and so overturned the lower court ruling denying the victim’s request for anonymity.
“It is logical to infer that children can suffer harm through cyberbullying, given the psychological toxicity of the phenomenon,” the court said in its ruling.
“Since common sense and the evidence show that young victims of sexualized bullying are particularly vulnerable to the harms of revictimization upon publication, and since the right to protection will disappear for most children without the further protection of anonymity, the girl’s anonymous legal pursuit of the identity of her cyberbully should be allowed.”
In contrast, prohibiting the publication of her identity or identifying information was found to represent “only minimal harm to press freedom” since all other details of the case could still be reported by media, the high court concluded.