Can you be anonymous online in Canada?

If someone engages in online defamation, online copyright infringement or any number of other illegal acts on the internet, the first question is who is actually committing the act in question? One of the main issues facing litigants in Canada is the identity of anonymous actors who are shielded by mysterious usernames, aliases or cryptic email addresses. 

In a recent decision in Nova Scotia, a judge ordered Google and a local paper to disclose the identity of individuals who are alleged to have posted defamatory statements on a local website.  The judge declared: “The court doesn’t condone the conduct of anonymous Internet users who make defamatory comments. They, like other people, have to be accountable for their actions.” The decision flies in the face of other Canadian court decisions where judges have erred on the side of caution by protecting the identity of online users.

In an online defamation case on the other side of the country, the BC Court of Appeal decision in Crookes v. Newton (see our previous post) is heading to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).  Leave to appeal was granted earlier this month and the decsion of the SCC should clarify this area of law, particularly the extent of liability for hyperlinks to defamatory content. 

Calgary – 08:00 MST


2 Comments so far

  1. Richard Stobbe May 28th, 2010 9:09 am

    Exposing Online Identities: Another Update:

  2. […] Can you be anonymous online in Canada? […]

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