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Angry bloggers beware! – Your anonymity is not guaranteed

steamIs your boss or co-worker getting on your nerves? Are you irritated with your neighbour? Do you feel like venting out by writing some nasty stuff about them on Twitter or on a blog? If you do it anonymously, no harm done, right?

Wrong. We all take our reputation very seriously, and rightly so. A person’s reputation contributes greatly to his or her personal and professional success. Similarly, a business’ reputation and goodwill are significant contributors to its financial strength.

When you post something online, you leave a cyber-trail, which, with varying degrees of difficulty, can be traced back to you. When you go as far as defaming someone online, that person can apply to a Canadian court for an order requiring your Internet service provider to disclose your identity and contact information.

In York University v. Bell Canada Enterprises et al, for example, York University alleged that its professors were being defamed by anonymous bloggers online. The postings were made by someone with a “Gmail” account. An order was issued against Google, requiring it to disclose the Internet protocol addresses associated with the Gmail account. Google complied with the order, and it was revealed that the anonymous bloggers were customers of Bell Canada and Rogers Communications. The Ontario court issued another order against Bell and Rogers, requiring them to reveal the identities of the anonymous bloggers.

Once your identity is uncovered, you might face a defamation lawsuit in Canada or elsewhere and, if the victim is your employer or co-worker, you might also find yourself without a job. So, the next time you are feeling frustrated and need to blow off some steam, stay off the Internet. Try writing in your old-fashioned personal diary (the one stashed away in your nightstand), or maybe take a yoga class.

Maanit Zemel, Associate
Miller Thomson LLP

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Maanit Zemel

Internet and Social Media lawyer, commercial litigator at MTZ Law
Maanit Zemel is a commercial litigator admitted to practice in Ontario and New York, with substantial experience and expertise in Internet and social media law, including Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), privacy, online defamation, cyberbullying and cyber-security. Read more.
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2 thoughts on “Angry bloggers beware! – Your anonymity is not guaranteed
  • Maanit Zemel says:

    Dear Sujata,

    Thank you for your question. You raise a very good issue that many people have trouble grappling with.
    When you post something online about another person or organization and that person or organization believes it to be defamatory (meaning that it makes them appear less in the eyes of another person), you can be sued for defamation, whether or not you believe the statemet to be true. Once in court, it will be up to you to prove that the statement was true. In other words, the plaintiff will not have to prove that the statement was false.
    If you can prove the statement’s veracity, you may not be found guilty of defamation at trial, however, you will still have to defend a defamation lawsuit, which can be very costly.
    I hope that answers your question,
    Maanit

  • Sujata says:

    What if the blog posts were true facts and can be proven as such – is that still considered defamation?
    If the blogger actually borught the matter to the attention of the organization/person and was frustrated by their unwillingness to do anything about it?