Joshua Nobleman, Shook, Wickham, Bishop & Field
Everyone has seen the angry — let’s call them “discussions” – on local Facebook groups that pop up when topics get political. Names get called. Feelings get hurt.
But those discussions don’t tend to get as venomous as, for example, the story of Amanda Todd, the Port Coquitlam teenager who committed suicide after being blackmailed into exposing her breasts via webcam, and then being bullied online after her first suicide attempt.
Since Todd’s story, the federal government enacted Bill C-13 in 2015 to criminalize the publication of intimate images without consent. And over half of our provinces and territories have created laws to deal specifically with online bullying. British Columbia has not. One oft-cited difficulty is to define “cyberbullying” in a way that properly balances our charter-protected freedom of expression.
But even without a specific law on the books, there are a number of related criminal offenses and civil causes of action.
In civil court, defamation is the main recourse: intentionally damaging someone’s good reputation. For example, in the 2016 BC Supreme Court case Prichard v. Van Nes, the Defendant falsely insinuated that the Plaintiff was a paedophile. The Plaintiff was awarded $65,000 when the court took into account the “viral” nature of Facebook posts generally, and the Defendant’s 2000+ Facebook friends.
A lawyer can help you identify whether a claim for defamation can be established on a “balance of probabilities” — the civil standard of proof, which is lower than criminal law’s “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
Before you contact authorities or speak with a lawyer, start with four steps:
1. “Block” the aggressor;
2. Save your evidence (save posts, take screenshot captures and build a timeline);
3. Avoid retaliation; and
- Check the aggressor’s school or institution for a bullying policy. If none exists, consider suggesting one.
Joshua Nobleman is a lawyer at Shook, Wickham, Bishop & Field. Visit www.CRlawyers.ca for more information or call 250.287.8355.