Chilling Effects In Action: Canadian Bloggers Worried About Legal Threats Stay Quiet
from the not-worth-getting-sued dept
A few months ago, we had the story of a guy in Canada who was suing a whole bunch of sites because commenters on those sites said things he believed were defamatory. He supposedly even went after a few sites that simply linked to the defamatory material (and then there were claims that he went after sites that simply linked to sites that linked to the supposedly defamatory content). That seems a bit absurd, for obvious reasons. However, an article in Toronto’s Globe & Mail notes that it may actually have been effective. Various bloggers have stopped writing about the guy out of a fear of getting sued as well. That, of course, is exactly what the suits were intended to do: to create some “chilling effects” against free speech. While the US laws clearly protect publishers and online services from content they didn’t write, Canada doesn’t have such protections — and the chilling effects from that gap in the law are quite clear in this case. There’s nothing wrong with using the law against those who actually are making defamatory remarks. However, suing sites that host those remarks or those who simply write about the story itself isn’t protecting against defamation. It’s going beyond that to intimidate anyone who might normally write about a perfectly legitimate legal issue.