A Question for the SCC

I wrote on Friday, in a post about A.B. v. Bragg Communications Inc., 2012 SCC 46, the Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing a victim of cyber-bullying to bring her defamation suit against the person responsible for it anonymously, that “the interesting question” about the decision is how far does its principle extend:

In other words, is this a case about cyber-bullying of children, or about any form of unpleasantness involving children, or about cyber-bullying generally, or about something broader still?

I am not the only one asking the question. The blawg All About Information does too, in its own comment on A.B., wondering “about the scope of the class the Court intended to protect.” As it observes,

[s]ome text in the decision would suggest the class is limited to children subject to sexualized cyberbullying … At the same time, the Court made a number of broad statements about the impact of bullying on children in general, whether online or in the physical world and whether sexualized or based on some other vulnerability.

Its conclusion is that

[p]erhaps the best way to read the decision is that its binding effect extends to sexualized cyberbullying, but it is also authority for like protection in other bullying scenarios experienced by children.

For my part, I still think that some of what the Court said can used, at least as a basis for arguments, in an even wider spectrum of cases: cases of cyber-intimidation or harassment where the victim is an adult, or perhaps other sorts of claims where the victim might be deterred from going to court by the publicity that such a process can bring, like defamation.

Only future cases will tell whether any of that is true.

Author: Leonid Sirota

Law nerd. I teach public law at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom. I studied law at McGill, clerked at the Federal Court of Canada, and did graduate work at the NYU School of Law. I then taught in New Zealand before taking up my current position at Reading.

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