In Levant v. Day, 2017 ONSC 5956, the defendant was regular participant on social media. The defendant posted numerous times on Twitter criticising a fundraising campaign by Rebel News. The plaintiff is the principal of Rebel News. The plaintiff brought an action seeking damages for defamation.
The defendant brought a motion to dismiss the action under the section 137.1(3) of the Courts of Justice Act, which was implemented to prevent strategic lawsuits against public participation (the “anti-SLAPP” provisions). As part of an anti-SLAPP motion, the Court considered whether there were grounds to believe the defendant had a valid defence.
The defendant argued, among other things, that the plaintiff had failed to deliver a libel notice. Section 5(1) of the Libel and Slander Act requires that a plaintiff has give notice to the defendant in writing within six weeks after the alleged libel comes to the plaintiff’s knowledge, specifying the complaint.
The Judge considered that section 5(1) only referred to libel in a newspaper or broadcast. The defendant argued that “broadcast” should include social media such as Twitter. The Judge noted that the parties had not provided any evidence regarding the nature, characteristics and functioning of Twitter , or any social policy reasons for interpreting or extending the meaning or definition of “broadcast” to include Twitter. The Judge refused to extend the meaning of “broadcast” to Twitter posts without such evidence. The Judge found that the Libel and Slander Act, as presently worded, does not apply to Twitter posts.