Campaigns of Vilification and Defamation

AuthorDavid A. Potts; Erin Stoik
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Campaigns of Vilif‌ication and Defamation
Libel litigation, SLAPP law, and anti-SLAPP law fundamentally address the
tension between freedom of expression, protection from defamation and
misinformation, and the open discussion of matters related to public interest.
1704604 Ontario Ltd v Pointes Protection Association, 2020 SCC 22 per Côté J at para 2:
[2] Strategic lawsuits against public participation (“SLAPPs”) are a phenom-
enon used to describe exactly what the acronym refers to: lawsuits initiated
against individuals or organizations that speak out or take a position on an
issue of public interest. SLAPPs are generally initiated by plaintif‌fs who engage
the court process and use litigation not as a direct tool to vindicate a bona f‌ide
claim, but as an indirect tool to limit the expression of others. In a SLAPP, the
claim is merely a façade for the plaintif‌f, who is in fact manipulating the
judicial system in order to limit the ef‌fectiveness of the opposing party’s
speech and deter that party, or other potential interested parties, from
participating in public af‌fairs.
Of course, not all libel actions are SLAPP proceedings. At the other end of
the spectrum is the growing phenomenon of campaigns of defamation and
vilif‌ication by defendants. In such cases, the plaintif‌f has been subjected to
an attack using misinformation with the purpose of defaming them. Under-
standing the hallmarks of such a campaign is important to understanding
SLAPP and anti-SLAPP proceedings.
These cases will be discussed in some detail below; from a review of the
law and our own experience, however, these campaigns appear to have sev-
eral characteristics in common:
1. They involve the use of multiple platforms or technologies to attack the

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