A Nova Scotia politician who says she was bullied online after someone posted a topless photo of her on Twitter has dropped the complaint she filed with the province’s new cyberbullying investigations unit.
Lenore Zann, a member of the Nova Scotia legislature from the Truro area, says she’s satisfied that police and the CyberScan team have done all they can.
“The young man who started the whole thing rolling has been very good and he hasn’t been in touch with me,” she said in an interview.
Last week, the former actress complained she had been harassed on Twitter over two weeks after she was sent a photo taken from the cable TV series The L Word, in which she appeared topless in a shower scene in 2008.
Zann said when the sender refused to delete the image on Nov. 29, the online conversation soon included others who retweeted the picture and hurled vulgar insults at her.
The NDP politician says she felt intimidated and complained to the sender’s parents, the local school board, Truro police and the cyberbullying unit, which was set up in September.
“I’m not going to proceed further with any criminal or legal action,” Zann said in an interview. “I’m quite satisfied that the school and the police have dealt with this effectively and appropriately.”
Zann also said she has closed her Twitter account, saying the social networking site has become a “nasty and negative kind of world.”
Truro police confirmed last week they had concluded the case was not a criminal matter and closed their file.
Citing privacy concerns, the unit can’t divulge details of the cases it handles under the province’s new Cyber-Safety Act.
But speaking generally, the director of the CyberScan unit said the five-member team won’t proceed with a case if a complaint is dropped.
“If somewhere down the road we ended up in court … that would be very difficult if that person didn’t want to provide evidence,” said Roger Merrick.
The act defines cyberbullying as any electronic communication that can “cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other damage or harm to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputation.”
Merrick said complaints deemed legitimate enter an informal process aimed at educating those involved. That usually includes informal telephone conversations with those whose electronic communication could be defined as cyberbullying.
“This is part of that public-education side, where people don’t know the potential repercussions of what may happen,” he said.
Critics have suggested these informal calls, which can include requests to delete material that could fall under the definition of cyberbullying, could be seen as a form of government intimidation that infringes on freedom of speech.
Merrick said the unit is all too aware of that concern.
“But I think there is a difference between cyberbullying and free speech,” he said. “You have to balance free speech with public safety. It is written in the legislation that we have the ability to deal with these matters informally to bring about a resolution.”
If informal methods fail, the unit can issue court orders to confiscate computers, cellphones and other mobile devices. Those who disobey these orders can be fined up to $5,000 and face a jail sentence of up to six months.
Complainants also have the option of going directly to a justice of the peace to seek a protection order, or they can file a lawsuit in civil court.
Since the unit started operating on Sept. 30, it has received 57 complaints and more than half of those cases remain open.
The unit says it has issued three warning letters, reached seven informal resolutions and resolved 10 cases through other means, including police involvement.