Summary of My Personal Observations about Cyberlibel

AuthorDavid A. Potts
ProfessionBarrister, Bar of Ontario
 : Summary of My Personal
Observations about Cyberlibel
. Cyberlibel is a form of and part of the law of defamation.
. e common law is adaptable enough to resolve many of t he questions
that arise.
. e introduction of I nternet-specic rules should be pri marily intro-
duced through the legislature.
. While cyberlibel is a form of defamation, I believe it should be considered
and examined separately for several reas ons:
a. It has its own distinctive, if not unique, char acteristics. Many of these
will be disc ussed in this book.
b. An understanding of the tech nology is essential to properly apply
the lega l principles. For example, in hy perlinks cases it is critical to
understand t he dierence between user-activated hyperli nks and
automatic or i mbedded hyperlinks. When looking at intermediaries
it is important to understand that dierent functions wi ll lead to dif-
ferent liabilities and dierent exemptions. When dealing w ith search
engines, it is i mportant to understand t hat they will retrieve defa ma-
tory statements published online, but also will reproduce, in any case,
the original defa matory statement in a search engine results page for-
mat which ty pically includes a hyperlin k and a “snippet.” e search
engine results pages are critical in deciding whether to inst itute pro-
ceedings and in assessing the impact of a defamatory statement on a
person’s character.
c. Important changes in the dynamics of information distribution have
occurred. It is l ikely the end of the monopoly, if not the dominance,
of the centra lized institutional med ia. No longer is information con-
trolled and edited entirely by organizations who dictate what we watch/

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