Supreme Court rules that hyperlinks to defamatory text not publication

This is an important ruling for freedom of speech in Canada:

OTTAWA — Simply posting a hyperlink to defamatory information does not in itself constitute publication, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Wednesday, effectively upholding lower court rulings in B.C.

In a slightly nuanced, albeit unanimous ruling, the high court found the defamatory material can only be considered published when the hyperlinker actually repeats the defamatory content. (Source)

What this ruling says is that if somebody provides a link to another website that contains defamatory statements, only the original website that published those statements can be sued.  The sites that merely link to it cannot.

Obviously, Socon or Bust does not support defamation because it’s a violation of the truth and a gross abuse of free speech. Defamation should be justly punished.  Socon or Bust wouldn’t knowingly link to a web page that makes false and defamatory accusations against somebody.

But this ruling is still important because it avoids curtailing free speech in an unreasonable manner, a trend that has unfortunately become troubling in Canada. Imagine if I link to another blog because I like one of their stories. A couple of weeks later, the author of that blog adds a paragraph to his story that defames somebody. I may not be aware of the addition because I don’t monitor the other blog regularly. This Court ruling basically protects me from being held guilty of that defamatory statement of which I was unaware.

Good stuff. And a good omen for the ruling in the case of Bill Whatcott. More on that case later today.

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