Facebook and Publication Bans

Howard Elliott of the Hamilton Spectator, in today’s editorial, says “Facebook … is threatening to render some Canadian laws irrelevant.” Noting that two youths had been charged with first degree murder in the case of Stefanie Rengel, Elliott complained that the two accused were “still legally anonymous. Except on Facebook, where they’ve been identified repeatedly by name and photograph.” Elliott calls for an end to the double standard, “in the name of civil society in cyberspace.”


  1. “Facebook and its corporate masters”. How dark and scary. Someone needs to tell Howard that Zuckerberg is – what – 8 years old? or something. Oh yes, and also about the *rest* of the internet, where this issue has been playing out since just after we came down from the trees. Scarier when you have – gasp – Facebook!!! (run for the hills!!!) – to point a finger at.

  2. Rob, “dark and scary” indeed. With the lightning-speed development of technology, I wonder, how fast do our laws keep up with the changes.

    Boiling everything down to the basics, what we’ve learned in our Introduction to Law lectures, laws are meant to protect the people living collectively in society; this reminds me of the “social contract”. One problem: our social contract seems to be lagging our social development and thus no longer offers either the protection or coherence necessary, as the case may be.

    What should we do? The magic question. For laws to be effective, they must be “stable”; for laws to protect, they must be flexible and adaptable to our social realities. We must determine how much stability can we sacrifice for the sake of protection or how much protection can we forgoe for the sake of stability?

    John’s example demonstrates clearly the incoherence in our laws and I am of the opinion that this incoherence must be rectified. But what do we do in a year, two years or three years down the road, when new online trends emerge? Do we go back to the drawing board and adopt new laws? Will we be, as citizens, fully cognizant of the applicable laws at any point in time if we allow such rapid changes? Are we cognizant of the laws applicable to us now?

    We live with Internet and technology and so our laws need to carefully establish the legal parameters surrouding these activities. But how fast can our laws keep up? I table this question and I would like to get anyone’s feedback.