Online Defamation and Use of Pseudonyms

Josef FinkelArbitration, Business Torts | Economic Torts, Civil Litigation, Commercial, Defamation, Injunction & Specific Performance, Norwich Order, Online Defamation0 Comments

Online Defamation (“Cyber Libel”)

Many of our defamation matters come from the internet. These cases take many forms, from defamatory articles, to social media posts, to negative reviews of a business or person. Courts have recognized that online defamation or “cyber libel” is far more perverse than other forms of defamation. This is because internet users can reach the global population within seconds by publishing defamatory remarks about an individual or a business. As such, cyber libel can be significantly more damaging to a person’s business and/or reputation than other forms of defamation.

Posting via Online Pseudonyms

Some individuals go so far as to create aliases to post malicious and defamatory comments about others on the internet. In Ontario, you can sue an anonymous defamer by naming them as “John Doe” and/or “Jane Doe” in your claim against them.

There are methods to determine the identity of these anonymous defamers, such as obtaining a Norwich order from a court that directs a third party organization (which is the registrant of the website on which the defamatory communications were posted and published) to disclose the defamer’s identity and contact information for purposes of serving the claim on the defamer. Some websites also have a process to request the identity of the author of a post.

What if they post again?

You may be worried that if you commence a claim against a person who has defamed you, even if you succeed on the claim, they may be tempted to repeat the wrongful act. If this is a concern of yours, one course of action to protect your reputation, is to apply to court for a permanent injunction that would prohibit the defamer from publishing any further defamatory remarks about you on any platform.

We have experience in obtaining court ordered injunctions and mandatory orders such as these.

Strict Deadlines: Don’t Wait to Protect Your Reputation!

There are certain very strict time periods that apply to providing notice (in certain types of defamation) and bringing an action in defamation.

Sitting on the assertion of your rights risks losing them. For instance, to succeed in an action for libel in a “broadcast”[1] or “newspaper”[2], a victim (intended plaintiff) must notify the alleged defamer of the defamatory remarks within 6 weeks and commence an action within 3 months of learning about these remarks. Other limitation periods may apply. This notice period has been found to apply to certain forms of online defamation as well (see our blog Court of Appeal Confirms Defamation Notice Periods Apply to Online Newspapers).

To learn more, see our online defamation webpage.

At Gilbertson Davis LLP, our lawyers can assist in matters involving the removal of defamatory material from the internet. Our lawyers can represent you, your business, company, partnership or corporation in your defamation dispute, whether you are the person being defamed or the alleged defamer. Such representation may include claims or the defence of claims for particular losses or damages additional to damages for defamation itself. Gilbertson Davis LLP lawyers have experience in Defamation, Civil Litigation, Business Torts, Business Litigation, Arbitration and Mediation matters and can assist you in resolving your legal issues in a timely and cost-effective manner. Our mission is to provide creative, sensible, cost-effective, long-term resolutions to clients on defamation disputes. Please contact Gilbertson Davis LLP to schedule a consultation.

 

[1] Under section 1(1) of the Libel and Slander Act “broadcasting” means the dissemination of writing, signs, signals, pictures and sounds of all kinds, intended to be received by the public either directly or through the medium of relay stations, by means of,

  • (a) any form of wireless radioelectric communication utilizing Hertzian waves, including radiotelegraph and radiotelephone, or
  • (b) cables, wires, fibre-optic linkages or laser beams,

and “broadcast” has a corresponding meaning; (“radiodiffusion ou télédiffusion”, “radiodiffuser ou télédiffuser”)

[2] Under section 1(1) of the Libel and Slander Act “newspaper” means a paper containing public news, intelligence, or occurrences, or remarks or observations thereon, or containing only, or principally, advertisements, printed for distribution to the public and published periodically, or in parts or numbers, at least twelve times a year. (“journal”)


Brief informational summaries about insurance litigation, commercial litigation and family law litigation matters in the courts of Ontario and Canada are periodically published on our website. Please note that our website content is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed or relied upon to provide legal advice. If you require legal advice, please request an initial consultation with Gilbertson Davis LLP using the Request Consultation Form on this webpage or by contacting our Intake Coordinator on (416) 979-2020, ext. 223 (both subject to the Terms of Use described on our Contact page).

About the Author
Josef Finkel

Josef Finkel

Josef is a litigator with experience working on a broad range of civil and commercial litigation matters including breach of contract, debtor and creditor litigation, corporate/commercial disputes, real estate litigation, fraud, construction law, and landlord and tenant disputes. He has appeared successfully at both the Superior Courts of Justice and the Small Claims Courts. Bio | Contact

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