Dan Michaluk writes:
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has just issued a decision in which it affirmed a decision to deny a potential defamation claimant the use of a pseudonym (initials) in pursuing a defamation claim.The appeal was brought by a 15-year-old girl who has taken issue with an individual who created a fake and allegedly defamatory Facebook profile in her name. In May 2010, she succeeded in arguing for production of the identity of the individual associated with the fake profile before LeBlanc J. of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. At the same time, LeBlanc J. denied the appellant an order permitting the use of a pseudonym and denied her a publication ban.
Saunders J.A. ends by saying that openness will produce a laudatory result in the circumstances: “The public will be much better informed as to what words constitute defamation, and altered to the consequences of sharing information through social networking among “friends” on a 21st centruy bulletin board with global reach.”
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So we’re worried about the future of reputation and we worry about children, but we do not let them try to protect their reputation by filing pseudoanonymously? I understand why it might be inappropriate for the court to grant a publication ban prior to trial, as that would constitute prior restraint of speech, but couldn’t the interests of justice/transparency still be served if the issue is aired but the names are redacted? Couldn’t the plaintiff be allowed to proceed anonymously or pseudoanonymously and the determination made after the outcome of the case as to whether she should be allowed to remain pseudoanonymous?
I don’t like this decision. Even if the plaintiff prevails, the case will show up in search engine results on her name, people will read the defamatory material (assuming it is defamatory, for now), and there will be those who will think, “Maybe she won, but where there’s smoke, there’s some fire.”