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Man found not guilty of online harassment via Twitter

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Last summer we wrote a post regarding trial that was taking place in Toronto. A man was charged with criminal harassment of two women who were considered political feminists. The harassment was allegedly committed via Twitter. He was accused of engaging in the activity for three months in 2012.

At trial, the Crown pointed to multiple activities the man engaged in that the women thought constituted harassment. These activities included tweeting things at the women that were mean and insulting, and making lewd comments about the body of one of the women. He also called them each “bitch.”

The focus of the trial became freedom of speech and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association watched the case closely. Ultimately, the court found in favor of the man on all counts. In the decision, the Ontario court justice indicated that despite the fact the man engaged in online harassment, that was not enough to cause them to be “objectively reasonable” in a fear for their safety. In support of this the justice pointed to testimony by one of the women that while demonstrating the concern and frustration she felt toward the man, did not equate fear. He also pointed to the fact the man stopped contacting the other woman when she asked him to stop.

Though the case provides some clarity regarding what constitutes harassment on Twitter, it also prompted a fair amount of discourse regarding the matter. One expert in privacy and technology law suggested that in measuring the wrong, any legislation should look beyond fear. It is likely that future cases of this nature will help to clarify the issue further.

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