OTTAWA - A Nova Scotia girl will be able to pursue a civil defamation suit against a cyber-bully who published a sexualized fake Facebook profile using her identity.
But on Thursday, in a unanimous decision, Canada's top court struck down a publication ban on the content of that Facebook page.
In its decision, the Supreme Court relied on the fact Canadian law recognized the inherent vulnerability of children as well as dangers of online bullying, which allows malicious content to spread widely and anonymously.
"Since common sense and the evidence show that young victims of sexualized bullying are particularly vulnerable to the harms of re-victimization upon publication, and since the right to protection will disappear for most children without the further protection of anonymity, the girl's anonymous legal pursuit of the identity of her cyberbully should be allowed," the judgment says.
The case, dating back to 2010, involves an anonymous cyber-bully who published the fake Facebook profile targeting the 15-year-old Nova Scotia girl, known as A.B.
The profile used her picture, a slight variation of her name nd "unflattering commentary about the girl's appearance along with sexually explicit references."
Following a request from the girl's lawyer, Facebook released the IP address linked to the fake account - a Dartmouth-based IP address - operated by Internet provider Eastlink, which consented to release more information about the address with a court order.
A.B., through her father as a guardian, went to court for that application, and also sought a publication ban on the content of the page and anonymity on the open court principle, which requires court proceedings to be open and accessible to the media and the public.
But two media organizations, Global Television and the Halifax Herald, opposed the request for the publication ban on the profile content and the bid to pursue the case anonymously.
The province's top court dismissed the girl's request for anonymity and the publication ban, arguing there wasn't enough evidence that the information would harm the girl. That was later upheld by the Nova Scotia court of appeal.
The Supreme Court partially struck down the two lower court decisions.