The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a 15-year old girl can pursue her cyber-bullies, without having to give up her identity. The court decided unanimously, the girl deserves to be protected from further victimization by having her name released.
The Globe and Mail says the case weighed the rights of cyber-bullied children, to prosecute their tormentors anonymously, versus the right of the media to freely report on the court proceedings. The court decided the girl's identity could be protected during her legal fight against the bullies who created a fake Facebook page to humiliate her.
The court says, "If we value the right of children to protect themselves from bullying, cyber or otherwise, if common sense and the evidence persuade us that young victims of sexualized bullying are particularly vulnerable to the harms of revictimization upon publication, and if we accept that the right to protection will disappear for most children without the further protection of anonymity, we are compellingly drawn in this case to allowing A.B.’s anonymous legal pursuit of the identity of her cyber bully."
The Nova Scotia teen began a legal fight two years ago, trying to force an Internet provider to reveal the identities of those who created a fake Facebook page about her. She says the page used her own profile photo and had a slightly different spelling of her name, but it posted humiliating details about her physical appearance and sexual practices. Facebook took the page down and offered up the IP address of its creator, but the service provider fought efforts to identify the person responsible.
A lower court refused to impose a publication ban in the case, suggesting the victim would actually, "be lauded for her courage in defending her good name and rooting out on-line bullies." And the court went further, by ordering the girl and her father to pay the legal costs of the media outlets that were fighting the court application.
Today, the Canadian Supreme court reversed that legal costs award but says information in the fake Facebook profile can be published provided it doesn't identify the victim.
The Kids Help Phone, that provides counselling to 200,000 children each year, argued that the impact of releasing the name of a bullied child would be devastating. In a court brief, lawyers for the organization say, "Numerous studies have confirmed that allowing the names of child victims and other identifying information to appear in the media can exacerbate trauma, complicate recovery, discourage future disclosures."