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Publication ban in Facebook bullying case remains in place


Dan Kitwood/2009 Getty Images

A 15-year-old girl and her father who want a Nova Scotia Internet provider to disclose the identity of whoever set up a fake Facebook page about her will be able to remain anonymous for now.

A Nova Scotia Court of Appeal justice said this week that the girl and her family will only be identified by their initials until another hearing on Dec. 7. Justice Linda Oland also ordered that the actual words used on the allegedly defamatory Facebook page are under a publication ban.

The girl and her father secured a decision nearly a month ago that would compel Halifax-based EastLink to reveal the name of the person or persons who set up the phoney Facebook profile. But Justice Arthur LeBlanc of Nova Scotia Supreme Court denied their request for a publication ban on the girl's name and the Facebook page's contents.

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The Halifax Chronicle Herald and Global TV had successfully argued against granting the girl anonymity, saying her lawyer's contention that the teenager's emotional well-being would suffer was not sufficient reason to order such a ban.

But LeBlanc's ruling was suspended after the girl and her father decided to appeal. On Dec. 7, a panel of three Appeal Court judges will hear arguments on whether LeBlanc's ruling was correct.

If the court sides with the family, they would be able to take the order to EastLink, which would then disclose its information on who created the now defunct page. If the court rules against a publication ban, the girl and her father would have to decide whether to pursue the matter.

"The case gained national attention not just because it ordered disclosure of an anonymous poster, but what's unusual in this case is that it's a 15-year-old girl and she is trying to do it anonymously herself," said Nancy Rubin, the lawyer representing the Herald.

Rubin said it's important to note this ruling is an interim order only, and it just preserves the girl's ability to remain anonymous in the event she ultimately succeeds with her appeal.

"Otherwise, it would be moot," Rubin said Friday.

The director of Dalhousie University's Law and Technology Institute said the court had a "delicate balancing act" in weighing the rights of a minor against the public nature of the justice system.

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"The media is interested in cases like this for the benefit of the public," Chidi Oguamanam said Friday. "Also, the court is interested in protecting the identity of somebody who could potentially be an innocent victim.

"Can a complete media ban be a solution to a problem like this? I really don't think so."

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