A “Real Name” Law?

According to lawsof.com,

On Thursday last week, eight judges in South Korea’s Constitutional Court unanimously struck down a law requiring the use of real names online on the grounds that it violated the constitutional right to free speech.

Would the Canadian Charter or other law produce the same effect if Parliament passed a similar statute?

Is there any remedy against a private service provider sought to enforce such a policy? I know that Facebook states that users must use their real names, bit I also know that that rule is not universally applied. (It is a bit hard to police that number of users …)

Is there any case for such a law or policy, on balance?



  1. It’s my experience that people using their real names online – or even a real name if it’s not theirs – tend to be more polite, so long as the alias is for some reason other than flaming. Anonymity tends to bring out the troll. (Yeah, I know that somewhere trolls are hiring a lawyer to sue me for defaming them by linking them with internet ‘trolls’).


    Murgatroyd Aloysius Dimpflemeister (II)

  2. Gosh, for a minute there, John, when I saw the title I had the mad thought that there was to be a law that would require laws to have real names instead of those tendentious appeals to the mob that they’re labelled with nowadays. But then, it’s the weekend and I’m even less sharp than usual. Pity, though.

  3. Simon, I could only wish. I think giving laws descriptive rather than political names would be a great step forward, and totally free to the taxpayer too! So bring on the Representation Amendment Act, and no more Fewer Politicians Act etc etc etc. There is at least in Ontario a strong convention (though not directly in the Standing Orders) that the long title of the bill shall indicate directly what is in it (so something like “An Act to amend the XX Act and to do Y and Z”), but that convention does not seem to touch short titles.

    The Opposition can play the same game, of course;
    Here is an example from a dozen years ago. Here is another. I guess once they got into government, it was inevitable that they would keep at it.

    Long titles can have their own messages, mind you. The Act that Ontario passed to redefine ‘spouse’ throughout the statute book (amending 70+ statutes, as I recall) to include same-sex spouses, after the Supreme Court decided that it had to, was called “An Act to amend certain statutes because of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in M. v. H.” (which was known in some quarters, though not officially, as ‘The Supreme Court Made Us Do It Act’).

  4. Then there’s the UK classic that gives a different meaning to omnibus: The Law Reform (Married Women and Tortfeasors) Act.


  5. David Collier-Brown

    As it happens, there are multiple senses of “real name”.

    In a court, I’m David Collier-Brown
    At a kid’s baseball game, I’m “Alan’s uncle”
    In a coffee shop I’m “Dave”, scribbled on the cup
    At work I’m “DCB”, as there is another Dave
    To my father I was “David Richard James Allegheny Diogenes Lamont-Brown” (dad was just a teentsy bit eccentric about middle names), and
    As an author, I’m another person entirely.

    As I’m not in a court when I’m on the ‘net, I expect to use one of the less formal versions of me, usually davecb@some-email-or-other

    And yes, I do have an expectation that the courts will protect my ability to be one of the less formal, less private versions of myself.

    –dave c-b

  6. I remain anonymous because sometimes (perhaps all the time), I merely wish to fill the airwaves, lightwaves or whathaveyou with mindless drivel and nonsense. Why should network TV be the only one with the ability and privilege to do the same?

    As well, I have a wee bit of reputation to protect and I still want to say unpopular things. Not all of us are so closed minded or blinded by a sense of propriety to simply ignore the wisdom of an anonymous poster. Truth isn’t always welcome.

    The Wet One