The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case involving a teenage girl targetted by a cyberbullying campaign on Facebook in March 2010, when she was 15 years old. The girl, known by initials A.B. to protect her identity, found out that someone had created a fake Facebook profile for her using a variation of her name, along with her photo and other identifying characteristics.
The court’s website reports that the fake profile “also discussed the applicant’s physical appearance, her weight, and allegedly included scandalous sexual commentary of a private and intimate nature.” The profile has since been taken down.
The Court agreed to the girl’s petition to force the web hosting provider to disclose the identity of the person who created the profile based on their IP address, but refused her request on a partial publication ban on the details that were posted on the website.
This is important, because protecting her identity in the case is a significant part of protecting her from further torment. A CBC News report on the case said this case will weigh the best interests of someone who has been cyberbullied against the public’s right to transparency in legal matters.
According to the Court, the case is about “the inherent vulnerability of young girls subject to on-line sexualized bullying and serious risk of harm to them if they are required to republish comments and reveal their identity to seek a remedy.”
Given all of this, and the ordeal this teenager has already been through, one has to question why it’s necessary to parade her through the court system in a public way. Hasn’t she suffered enough? What does the Canadian public gain in connecting embarrassing, false comments about her weight and sexual behaviour to the actual identity of a minor?
At very least, this case does represent an important example of cyberbullying being tested for the crime it is in the highest court of the land. It also promises to expose the identities of the bully(ies) behind the fake Facebook profile, assuming they were not successful in hiding their real IP address. This hearing, expected to make its way to docket by October 2012, will definitely be one to watch.