We read from time to time that Internet defamation is worse than that in other media because of its global reach and persistence over time. Thus the Ontario Court of Appeal in Barrick v Lopehandia 2004 CanLII 12938 issued an injunction against further defamation, in part because of the Internet’s character as “potentially a medium of virtually limitless international defamation” (the Court quoted Matthew Collins, The Law of Defamation and the Internet.) The court (by majority) also increased fivefold the damages awarded at trial, for similar reasons.
Recently the British Columbia Supreme Court granted ex parte injunctions against publication of defamatory material. Nazerali v Mitchell 2011 BCSC 1581 (CanLII) (and against any transfer of domains or material that might facilitate the spread of the libel). See a comment on the case here.
On the other hand, the Ontario Superior Court recently held in Baglow v Smith 2011 ONSC 5131 (CanLII) that comments on a blog should not necessarily give rise to a claim in defamation, when the person alleging defamation has a right of reply in the same blog. The readers are expecting a reply, not a lawsuit, said the Court. It was not appropriate for a participant in a comment thread to go off to court, dropping out of the debate. One can ‘remove the sting’ by responding. The judgment quotes Justice Binnie in the SCC’s WIC Radio decision on fair comment, that public controversy can be a rough trade, and the law needs to accommodate its requirements.
Are the rules about what one can or should say online different from those that apply in print? Should one be compelled to defend oneself online? Are insults less defamatory there (here)?