A 15-year-old Nova Scotia girl discovered that someone had posted a fake profile about her on Facebook, using her photo, slightly changing her name and posting unflattering comments and sexually explicit references.
She was successful in obtaining a court order that the Internet provider disclose information about the publisher of the profile, but her requests for anonymity and a publication ban on the content of the profile were turned down, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence of specific harm to her. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal agreed that there was not enough evidence of harm to the girl to justify restricting media coverage through a publication ban.
However, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the teen an order giving her anonymity as she pursues the profilers. The Court reasoned that while freedom of the press and open courts are important, such access can be restricted by important interests such as privacy and protecting children from cyber-bullying. It found that while evidence of direct, harmful consequence to an individual applicant is relevant, courts can also find objective harm in the vulnerability of children to cyber-bullying.
The Court wrote:
Since common sense and the evidence show that young victims of sexualized bullying are particularly vulnerable to the harms of revictimization upon publication, and since the right to protection will disappear for most children without the further protection of anonymity, the girl’s anonymous legal pursuit of the identity of her cyberbully should be allowed.
But, the Court also ruled that the non-identifying parts of her profile should not be protected by a publication ban.
Read the full case: A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc., 2012 SCC 46