My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that striking the balance between protecting anonymous free speech on the one hand and applying defamation laws on the other sits at the heart of a new Ontario Superior Court decision released last week. The case involved postings about Phyllis Morris, the former mayor of Aurora.
In 2010, the website auroracitizen.ca featured an online chat forum where participants discussed a local election campaign. Morris, who was defeated in the election, launched a legal action during the campaign against the site, the chat forum moderators, its lawyers, and website host to order them to disclose the identity of three anonymous posters. Morris did not identify the specific defamatory words, but claimed that six posts were defamatory.
The court was therefore not asked to determine whether the posts at issue were in fact defamatory. Rather, it simply faced the question of whether it should order the disclosure of personal information about the posters themselves so that Morris could proceed with a defamation lawsuit.