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story originally from: The Montreal Gazette
Supreme Court to rule on Facebook cyberbullying case
By Natalie Stechyson September 26, 2012
OTTAWA - A teenage girl who says she was a victim of cyberbullying will find out Thursday whether she'll be able to keep her name and what was written about her on a fake Facebook profile out of the public eye.
The Supreme Court of Canada will announce in a judgment Thursday whether the Nova Scotia girl known only as A.B. can keep her name and the alleged defamatory statements said about her online under a publication ban, while she tries to sue the person or persons responsible for defamation.
It's the first time the Supreme Court has taken on the topic of cyberbullying, and a number of interveners - including a national media coalition, the privacy commissioner of Canada and Kids Help Phone - have chimed in on both sides of the case, which was heard in May.
The case pits the media's right to report on court proceedings against the inherent vulnerability of young girls subject to online sexualized bullying and the risk of harm if they're required to reveal their identity and republish comments, according to court documents.
What's at stake is the open court principle, which is what lets the public understand and scrutinize what's happening in the courts, said Marko Vesely, a Vancouver lawyer who represented the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, who also acted as interveners in the case.
"Like the old saying goes, 'sunlight is the best disinfectant'. Having the courts open to scrutiny is what gives us all confidence in the court system," Vesely said.
Anytime a court declares something defamatory, it's a restriction on freedom of speech, Vesely said. And it's concerning if that's being done without being open to the public, he added.
But a child's safety should come before any discussion of openness, said Rob Frenette, the co-executive director of BullyingCanada.
Putting A.B.'s name and the details of what was written about her out into the public will likely just further victimize her, he said. And, if she does have to reveal these things, it could scare other cyberbullying victims from getting help, Frenette said.
"As students come forward to us about being bullied we need to ensure their identity is protected, simply because they feel that if they come forward...they could become more susceptible to bullying," Frenette said.
In 2010 A.B. found that someone had made a fake Facebook profile using her image and a slightly modified version of her name, according to court documents filed last year. The profile allegedly included "scandalous sexual commentary of a private and intimate nature," the documents say.
In pursuing a defamation case, A.B. has requested that the identity of the person behind the IP address linked to the profile be released by telecommunications company Bragg Communications - a request that has not been opposed.
But she also sought an order to allow her to proceed with a pseudonym and a partial publication ban. This order has been denied by the lower courts.
A.B.'s counsel has argued that the previous courts failed to take into account the special vulnerability of children, according to court documents.
According to UNICEF Canada, who also acted as interveners, some of the risks to victims of cyberbullying can include physical and emotional health problems, depression, eating disorders, nightmares, and acts of self-harm, including suicide.
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