"Sexualized Online Bullying" through an Equality Lens: Missed Opportunity in AB V. Bragg?

By Bailey, Jane | McGill Law Journal, March 2014 | Go to article overview

"Sexualized Online Bullying" through an Equality Lens: Missed Opportunity in AB V. Bragg?


Bailey, Jane, McGill Law Journal


In AB v. Bragg, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that fifteen-year-old AB should be allowed to use a pseudonym in seeking an order to disclose the identity of her online attacker. By framing the case as one pitting the privacy interests of a youthful victim of sexualized online bullying against principles protecting the free press and open courts, the SCC approached but ultimately skirted the central issue of equality. Without undermining the important precedent that AB achieved for youthful targets of online sexualized bullying, the author explores the case as a missed opportunity to examine the discriminatory tropes and structural inequalities that undergird the power of this kind of bullying. Viewed through an equality lens, enhanced access to pseudonymity for targets is not necessarily about privacy per se, but rather an interim measure to respond to the equality-undermining effects of sexualized online bullying--a privacy mechanism in service of equality.

Dans AB c. Bragg, la Cour supreme du Canada a statue que AB, age de 15 ans, avait le droit d'utiliser un pseudonyme pour demander une ordonnance de divulgation de l'identite de son agresseur en ligne. En voyant dans l'affaire un conflit entre le droit a la vie privee d'un jeune victime de la cyberintimidation sexualisee, et les principes de la liberte de la presse et du droit a la publicite des debats judiciaires, la CSC a aborde la question mais a contourne finalement la question centrale de l'egalite. Sans ignorer le precedent important que la Cour a rendu pour proteger les jeunes qui sont cibles par l'intimidation a caractere sexuel en ligne, l'auteure envisage l'affaire comme une opportunite manquee d'examiner le langage discriminatoire et les inegalites structurelles qui soustendent la force de ce type d'intimidation. Du point de vu de legalite, un acces elargi a l'utilisation d'un pseudonyme pour des jeunes cibles ne concerne pas forcement la vie privee comme telle, mais est plutot une mesure provisoire pour repondre aux effets de l'intimidation a caractere sexuel en ligne qui minent l'egalite, c'est-a-dire un mecanisme de la vie privee au service de l'egalite.

Introduction

  I. Background

 II. Judgments Below
     A. First Instance and Costs Decisions of the Nova Scotia
        Supreme Court
     B. Decision of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal
     1. Parens patriae
     2. Proof of a Serious Risk of Harm

III. Analysis of the Supreme Court Decision
     A. The Harm to AB's Piracy
     B. The Open Court Principle

 IV. Locating "Sexualized Online Bullying" in Structural
     Inequality
     A. Equality Analyses that Could Have Been Advanced
        1. Age
        2. Sex
        3. Sexual Orientation
     B. Why Wasn't Equality Raised?
     C. What Difference Could an Equality Analysis Hive
        Made?

Conclusion

Introduction

In 2010, fifteen-year-old AB was targeted by a fake Facebook profile that an unknown person created about her. The fake profile not only used a variation on AB's name, but also included a photo of her and purported to discuss her allegedly preferred sexual acts, as well as her appearance and weight. AB asked the Nova Scotia Supreme Court (NSSC) to order the Halifax-based Internet service provider (ISP) Bragg Communications Inc. (Bragg) to disclose customer information related to the Internet Protocol (IP) address from which the fake Facebook profile originated. AB also asked to be allowed to proceed with her disclosure application using a pseudonym and requested a ban on the republication of the sexualized attacks made in the fake profile (together, the "publicity-related requests"). Two media representatives, the Halifax Herald Limited (Herald) and Global Television (Global), intervened to oppose her publicity-related requests.

At first instance, Justice LeBlanc ordered Bragg to release the subscriber data sought, but denied AB's confidentiality and partial publication ban requests. …

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