The scourge of online defamation poses enforcement challenges
for victims. So much so that there may be a temptation to begin
looking for gatekeepers. The direction of the law appears to be
ready to assist.
Consider, for example, the problem of the anonymous blogger. The
path to justice requires a number of separate steps. Obtain an
order requiring disclosure of subscriber information. Cajole the
host of the blog to take down the content. Seek an order to
validate service of proceedings on the blogger by email. Finally,
pursue default judgment. In Manson v. John Doe, 2013 ONSC
628, the plaintiff followed that route and was awarded C$200,000 in
damages and nearly C$50,000 in costs on a motion for default
judgment. Whether the judgment will ever be satisfied is
A more direct route might be to seek compensation is to impose a
gatekeeping function on the owner of the website. That route might
just become easier. Last year, in Canoë inc c.
Corriveau, 2012 QCCA 109, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld an
award of C$150,000 in damages and C$50,000 in punitive damages
against the website owner who was found to have been grossly
negligent in permitting defamatory statements to remain on the
site. The hook was that the website owner failed to enforce
promptly a website code of conduct.
More recently, in February, the English Court of Appeal, in
Tamiz v. Google Inc.,  EWCA Civ 68, held that the
host of a blog could be liable for defamatory material in
circumstances where the host provided a platform, provided
assistance and services relating to the platform, and imposed terms
and conditions that enabled it to remove or block service in the
event of a breach of the terms. The Court of Appeal held that such
a host could become liable for allowing defamatory material to
remain on the site once the host had been notified of the
defamatory material and had a reasonable period of time to remove
Of course national laws may differ with respect to what
constitutes defamation and defences to defamation. So, as
always, it is necessary to seek local guidance before jumping to
However, the risk management message is clear. If an
organization is operating a platform or interactive site with a
social media component where users may post comments, reviews and
interact, that organization would do well to review its policies
and whether it has the resources and compliance structure to ensure
that it monitors the site or at least can respond quickly to
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