Toronto Court to Decide if Twitter Harassment Warrants Jail Time
Tweets Cause Woman to Fear for Her Safety
A man was in court in Toronto yesterday who stands accused of criminal harassment via Twitter. A woman alleges that the man sent her sexual messages via Twitter and continued to do so after she asked him to stop. She says his Tweets caused her to fear for her safety. Therefore it is time for the Toronto court to decide if Twitter harassment warrants jail time.
The Criminal Code of Canada
The Criminal Code of Canada defines criminal harassment as conduct, which causes another person fear for their safety. The fear must be reasonable in all the circumstances.
In light of this, the defense in this case may try to argue that the woman had no reasonable basis to fear for her safety in the circumstances and that she essentially over-reacted. While the woman’s position is a novel one, it is increasingly important – just because the harassment takes place online it shouldn’t provide an aggressor with impunity with respect to comments that cause fear in others. It is for the Toronto court to decide if Twitter harassment warrants jail time.
While the standard for criminal harassment is different that the definition of harassment pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code, this is an important case with ramifications in employment and human rights law as it will set a precedent for how the courts will deal with harassment via Twitter.