Is online harassment mistaken for free speech, or is free speech mistaken for online harassment?
How do you fight cyber-harassment, when this real thing isn’t categorized as anything tangible by law? It’s interesting to hear the public say cyber-bullying laws go too far, but what about the act of cyber-bullying itself? Is it okay when people take their own lives or feel their lives are in danger because of it?
In what critics are calling a step backwards in Canada’s efforts to thwart “crime” online, Ontario’s Court of Justice just dismissed all charges against Gregory Alan Elliott, a Toronto man accused of criminally harassing two women on Twitter in 2012. The Crown had argued Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly feared for their safety because of Elliott’s relentless tweets. Elliott argued his tweets were valid political commentary. The judge decided both women were harassed, but didn’t categorize it as criminal, because he didn’t think their safety was compromised. Is personal safety that objective?
In December, a Nova Scotia court struck down the anti-cyberbullying law created after Rehtaeh Parsons’s death. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia called the legislation a “colossal failure” that infringes upon Charter rights. This was the Cyber-Safety Act – the country’s first law intended to protect victims of online harassment.
Last week, Manitoba set a precedent when we put a law into effect giving victims of revenge porn the ability to sue perpetrators in civil court for compensation, and, even press criminal charges. But that is about as advanced as the fight against cyber-harassment has become.
Even police have told me their frustrations as they feel they aren’t given the tools to protect victims accordingly.
What do you think? What more can we do protect people from cyberbullying? Or are we doing too much? Taking your calls after 1pm: 204.780.6868 or 1.844.686.6868.