Canadian Supreme Court Tosses Out Politician's Libel Lawsuit Against Yahoo

from the a-small-victory-for-the-wrong-reasons dept

Earlier this year, we pointed out that a member of the Green Party up in Canada was apparently suing a ton of websites just for allowing comments about him that he did not like or find to be true. There were some really bizarre aspects to the case — which seemed to highlight those of us in the US should be happy about section 230 of the CDA protecting service providers from the actions of their users. Canada doesn’t have similar protections, and this guy sued Yahoo, Wikipedia, MySpace and many others, not because of anything those sites did, but because he didn’t like messages posted by users of those sites. In fact, the guy seemed rather quick on the lawsuit trigger, leading many to accuse him of doing this to hide criticism, rather than to fend off actually libelous statements.

While many of those cases are still in process, Michael Geist (who is apparently also being sued by this guy) lets us know that the British Columbia Supreme Court dismissed (with costs) the libel lawsuit the guy had filed against Yahoo, noting that it was not at all clear that it had jurisdiction over the case, since Yahoo was in the US and the guy had presented no evidence that the supposedly defamatory postings were “accessed, downloaded, and read by someone in British Columbia.” Of course, there appear to be plenty of other reasons why this case should have been thrown out, but the court didn’t even bother to get into them in dismissing the case for no evidence that it was the proper jurisdiction. There are still plenty of other such cases to go through, though — so I’m sure we’ll be hearing more.

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Comments on “Canadian Supreme Court Tosses Out Politician's Libel Lawsuit Against Yahoo”

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Mark Francis (user link) says:

National minidoc covered these cases

There’s an 8-minute news piece that CBC did on blogosphere libel chill which includes the Crookes cases. I’m in it. CBC has it online at

Crookes failed to demonstrate that anyone in his province actually saw the material in question (the Yahoo group in question was closed and private), thus the material was never published there. Even Crookes only learned of it through an intermediary.

This part of the judge’s ruling is interesting:

[12] On August 4, 2006, Mr. Crookes emailed Yahoo about three postings on the GPC-Members website that defamed him and demanded that Yahoo remove these postings. That same day, following an exchange of emails and Mr. Crookes providing Yahoo with the necessary, detailed information required by Yahoo to deal with Mr. Crookes’ concerns, a copy of the full headers and the message, Yahoo removed the postings. Yahoo asked Mr. Crookes to notify it of any further questionable content he found in Yahoo! Groups. Mr. Crookes was satisfied with Yahoo’s prompt response and thanked Yahoo for its assistance.

[13] The statement of claim alleges that later in August 2006 the impugned postings were reposted with other allegedly defamatory material. Instead of following his previously successful method of complaint by email, Mr. Crookes claims that on December 8, 2006, he had his lawyer send a “legal letter” by fax and courier addressed to “Sir/Madam” at Yahoo! Inc. Mr. Crookes’ counsel complained that Mr. Crookes “has not received your ongoing diligence in making certain that this website does not either repost the libellous comments or post equally venomous remarks”. Mr. Crookes’ counsel requested Yahoo “shut down this site and in its place, post an apology for the libellous comments made about him, which the moderators have, to date either reposted, ignored, and sometimes even republished with commentary”. The letter did not provide the information that Yahoo had previously told Mr. Crookes it needed in order to take steps to deal with questionable material; that is, a copy of the full headers and the impugned messages.
Crookes v. Yahoo Page 6

[14] A receipt of confirmation was requested in the letter. There was no receipt of confirmation. No effort was made by Mr. Crookes or his lawyer to ascertain if Yahoo received the letter.

[15] Yahoo claims it has been unable to locate this letter in its correspondence records. In addition, no effort was made to ascertain the appropriate individual, or even the appropriate department, who should receive such a letter. No effort was made to correspond with Yahoo by email, as Mr. Crookes had done, successfully, in the past. Instead of following up with Yahoo, Mr. Crookes commenced this action against Yahoo on March 2, 2007.

[16] Plaintiffs’ counsel argues knowledge can be imputed to Yahoo based on counsel’s letter which was faxed, and then couriered and signed for by “K. Kerins”. However, the manner in which counsel contacted Yahoo, having regard to Mr. Crookes’ prior email contact with Yahoo, which was successful in having the impugned postings removed efficiently, raises suspicions and concerns.


There were three messages re-posted. I did two of them. I did not know that they were removed due to libel claims, and no one involed was told that for many months after. Had I known he had those objections, I never would have re-posted them, though I disagree with his libel claim — who needs to be sued? Indeed, months later when advised me, I removed the posts.

Libel in Canada is very easy to claim. Our courts recognize ‘false opinion’ as libel, even when the opinions are based on facts. Unlike America, in Canada with libel the author/publisher are considered guilty until proven innocent, and damages do not have to be proven.

Aunt Connie says:

Saving Private Richard

Dear Richard

I cannot believe the spin your life has taken. There are so many more causes in the world to fight for.Your Mother and Father gave all their love to you. Please do not let family illness invade your body.Drop it all ready. You are heading downward.You were taught different and I know. Please replace hate with love

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