Police AssociAtion of novA scotiA 45 Bullying Awareness 40th Annua l Cr ime Preven t i on Gu i de 2010 PANS In a March 2011 decision, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal held that the name of a 15-year-old girl who was allegedly bullied and defamed online could be revealed to the public. This case is about a teenage girl from Nova Scotia who became aware in March of 2010 that a new Facebook page, which included her photograph, a slightly altered version of her name, and discussions on her physical appearance and scandalous sexual conduct, had been posted online in her name. The contents of this page allegedly harassed, bullied and defamed her. She told her father that she had not created this fake page and that she did not know who had. Her parents applied to the Court for an order revealing the identity of the person(s) who created and posted the Facebook page as well as a publication ban prohibiting the revelation of their daughter’s identity. They did succeed in getting an order to reveal the identity of the person(s) who posted the defamatory comments, an IP address said to be located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Bragg Communications Limited which owns Eastlink, an Atlantic Canada cable television and Internet services provider, was ordered to disclose the identity of the owner of the IP address. They did not oppose this request. But Justice LeBlanc refused the second request that a publication ban be granted to conceal her identity or that a partial ban of the alleged defamatory words be allowed. The plaintiff appealed this ruling to the Court of Appeal but the appeal was denied. She is now appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. The teenager says that the judge failed to take into account the vulnerability of children and ignored an obvious and serious risk of harm. She argued that should her identity be revealed, further harm would be caused since the bullying and defamation would continue in some form, possibly by her peers. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal saw it differently. The Court reasoned that, should the plaintiff be successful at trial, “one might expect that she will be lauded for her courage in defending her good name and rooting out online bullies who lurk in the bushes, behind nameless IP addresses. The public will be much better informed as to what words constitute defamation, and alerted to the consequences of sharing information through social networking among ‘friends’ on a 21st Century bulletin board with a proven global reach.” Justice LeBlanc argued that the public was entitled to know whether these words were defamatory and for the public to be able to view the Facebook profile in its entirety, and not by way of edited bits and pieces. Only then would the public be truly informed as to the nature of the alleged defamation. In his view, rather than produce a reluctance to complain about online Internet bullying, this might serve to deter would-be bullies with the threat of retribution, once unmasked. A recent study shows that nearly 60 percent of Canadian students use chat rooms and instant messaging and 99 percent use the Internet. This has created an enormous potential to use the Internet as a weapon. As a student at Deer Park Public School in Toronto put it, “The Internet has really given everyone a voice and they’ve decided to use that voice to either criticize people or make fun of them in some sort of way.” And on turning off the computer completely and not reading messages at all, this student adds, “I should have a right to be able to log on to the Internet or use my cell phone or check my email without having people sending me those messages. I mean, sure you could just hide from everything, you could shut the door to your room and sit in a chair for the rest of your life, but that wouldn’t work out too well. Bullying on Facebook – Should a victim’s name be revealed to the public? © 2010 Fenety Marketing Services