A Nova Scotia teenager has won the right to remain anonymous in a court battle against a cyberbully, but the Supreme Court of Canada rejected her request for a publication ban on some details of her case.
The 17-year-old high school student, identified in court documents as A.B., and her father were asking Canada's top court to protect their identities in a court order that would force an internet company to reveal the identity of the person who created a fake Facebook account with her likeness.
The teenager was 15 when she discovered the fake Facebook page had been created using her own profile photo and a slightly different spelling of her name. The page contained defamatory material about her physical appearance and sexual practices. Facebook took the page down and offered up the IP address of its creator.
A judge agreed to A.B.'s request for a court order compelling internet service provider, Eastlink, to identify the owner of the IP address, but stayed the order until A.B. and her father agreed to identify themselves in the order. The judge also rejected their request that the defamatory details of the Facebook page remain secret. A Court of Appeal agreed with the judge's rulings.
Lawyer Michelle Awad says the family welcomed the decision.
"You can expect the father of a young girl whose been through this and also been through this process for more than two years now is very pleased with the result," she said.
"The Supreme Court ruling was based in part on work by Nova Scotia's task force on cyber bullying
"This will actually encourage people to come forward and seek legal remedies rather than chilling that," said the task force's chair, Wayne Mackay.
The court noted that one of the recommendations of the report was to develop mechanisms to report cyberbullying anonymously.
Since the non-identifying parts of the page could not be connected to A.B's name, the court ruled that the public's right to open courts as well as freedom of the press could be maintained.
The final chapter of this story has yet to be written. The decision means only that the victim's family can get the name of the customer with the IP address where the fake Facebook page originated.
If it was a private residence that narrows down the possibilities, but if it was a public site, the family may never know.