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Fear of alleged victims at issue in Twitter harassment trial

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Over the course of the past few years the use of social media platforms has grown at a fast pace. People of ages and backgrounds now use apps such as Facebook and Twitter to share information with the world. While much of the use of these platforms is for positive communication, there are however, some who may feel that its use is for negative.

A man, who tweeted at two Toronto women, considered to be political feminists, is facing a criminal charge for his communications on Twitter. He is charged with criminal harassment. The Crown alleged that he:

  • Sent many harassing tweets at the women
  • Mentioned the women’s handles
  • Referenced hash tags created by one of the women
  • Monitored their feeds
  • Sent subtweets at the women

The women said they blocked him on the platform and, citing his reference to tweets where he indicated where they were and activities they were engaging in, claimed that his activities caused them to be afraid.

At trial, an issue was whether the women really were afraid. The defence alleged the fact the women were taunting and calling him out on Twitter, illustrated they were not. Instead, the defence sought to characterize the situation as “an ugly political debate during which both sides resorted to childish name-calling.”

The Crown claimed that when someone is being harassed, there is not a specific way that they should respond to such behavior and that fighting back in some situations is normal.

Which characterization the judge ruling on the matter ultimately accepts, remains to be seen. A ruling on the matter is expected in the fall.

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