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free speech in Canada

Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on April 14, 2014

  • “Money spent trying to spread a political message is speech, whether you like the message or not.” [Michael Kinsley on McCutcheon v. FEC, earlier]
  • “Letter: Ken Avidor on Being Silenced By a Defamation Suit” [Romenesko]
  • “Canada’s first Twitter harassment trial has taken a strange twist.” [Christie Blatchford, National Post]
  • In union leader’s defamation suit, Philadelphia court orders anonymous commenter unmasked [CBS Philly]
  • New Jersey ruling letting parents be sued over kids’ Facebook posts will chill speech [Hans Bader/CEI, earlier]
  • More dispatches from Michael Mann-Mark Steyn litigation showdown [Steyn, Charles Cooke] Bonus: Steyn on Andrew Bolt case in Australia and on Nevada protests’ “First Amendment Area” (“The ‘First Amendment Area’ is supposed to be something called ‘the United States’.”)
  • “True-crime author Ann Rule’s suit against Seattle Weekly tossed” [KING]

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How a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada expanding defenses in defamation law emboldened reporters and made possible tough press coverage of the Toronto mayor [Ivor Tossell, Walrus Magazine]

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“A Montreal man has been ordered to pay $8,000 to a panhandler after an email he wrote complaining about her presence outside a liquor store was deemed discriminatory by the province’s human rights commission. … The SAQ [Quebec provincial liquor store operator] then made the decision to share the letter with the woman, who was advised by the police to file a complaint with the commission.” [CBC]

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Canada’s infamous speech-smothering Section 13′s dead. And good riddance too. Among targets of legal action under Section 13 over the years have been well-known conservative commentators Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant [National Post and more, Brian Lilley, Wikipedia, earlier]

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Esther Wrightman, who opposes the construction of wind turbines near her Ontario home, made some YouTube videos taking a dim view of NextEra, a leading wind-power company. Now the company is suing her, alleging among other things that she infringed on its intellectual property rights by publishing satirical altered versions of its logo. [Ezra Levant, Sun; Bayshore Broadcasting]

Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on March 11, 2013

  • “Crime to Create a ‘Hostile Environment’ That ‘Substantially Interferes’ with Person’s ‘Psychological Well-Being’ Based on Race, Religion, Sex, Etc.?” [Volokh] “Minnesota Bill to Ban K-12 Speech That Denies Fellow Students a ‘Supportive Environment’” [same]
  • Blogger dropped as defendant in “pink slime” defamation litigation, but suit against ABC and others continues [Bettina Siegel/Lunch Tray] Suit against ABC based in part on state food-disparagement statute occasionally criticized in this space [Reuters] Dearborn residents: are you sure you want to patronize a restaurant that deploys lawyers to suppress criticism? [Paul Alan Levy, earlier]
  • Libya arrests foreigners accused of distributing Christian literature, charge could carry death penalty [Guardian]
  • Sometimes it seems NYT editors are First Amendment absolutists about everything except political speech First Amendment was meant to protect [SmarterTimes]
  • Global Wildlife Center of Folsom, Louisiana sues a satirical website and then menaces Ken of Popehat;
  • Long piece on Naffe/O’Keefe backstory of Kimberlin/Patterico legal/media war [Chris Faraone, Boston Phoenix, earlier]
  • Update: following outcry, publishing company drops suit against Canadian librarian [CBC, earlier] Also from Canada: Nanaimo, British Columbia: “Mayor ensures ‘Koruption’ stickers never seen again” [Beschizza, BoingBoing] Voltaire wept: Bruce Bawer on the Canada Supreme Court’s “hate speech” decision [Front Page mag, earlier]
  • “Donald Trump, paper tiger?” [Paul Alan Levy]

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In a serious blow to speech rights north of the border, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld so-called hate speech laws as consistent with Canadian constitutional guarantees. The decision partially upheld the legal punishments applied by a Saskatchewan tribunal to a man who distributed anti-gay literature. [The Globe and Mail]

P.S. As has been pointed out, precedent in Canada on this issue was already pretty bad before the latest decision, so “serious blow” may not be the right phrase, except in the sense of hitting someone who’s already down. More: Howard Friedman via Volokh; Jacob Sullum.

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on December 20, 2012

  • Did U.K. high official use pending Leveson press inquiry to browbeat newspaper? [Telegraph via Volokh]
  • Canadian blogger sued over speech by Richard Warman has a legal defense fund [Blazing Cat Fur via Instapundit, 2010 Mark Steyn]
  • “Introduction To Irony: Or, How To Take A Joke 10″ [Wendy Kaminer, WBUR]
  • Meat industry ex-employee sues blogger who led “pink slime” campaign [Popehat, Lunch Tray/Bettina Siegel]
  • 1958 ordinance still on books in Ormond Beach, Fla. prohibits distribution of publications “belittling the traditional American institutions or folkways” [Volokh]
  • “We have to concede” a rhesus monkey could not beat Mme. Taitz in court battle [Lowering the Bar]
  • Common Cause vs. First-Amendment-protected political speech, part umpteen [Hans Bader, CEI]
  • UK: Jack Shafer on the trouble with the Leveson press inquiry [Reuters] Journos already cowed by hostile press laws: “Even foreign dictatorships know how to frighten Fleet Street.” [Spectator] “Even people who RT’d libelous allusions to [him] on Twitter could be sued. … surreal” [BoingBoing, Popehat]
  • Calling people names in Hanna, Alberta, or cheering on those who do, can now expose you to penalties under anti-bullying ordinance [Sun News]
  • “Britain’s High-Tech Thought Police” [Brendan O'Neill] Related, Rowan Atkinson [Telegraph]
  • Language muscle in Quebec: “After series of fire-bombings, Second Cup coffee shops added the words ‘les cafes’ to signs” [Yahoo Canada]
  • Blasphemy law around the world: Vexed with their speech, Egyptian court sentences to death in absentia various persons living in US and Canada [Volokh] “Turkish TV channel fined for ‘The Simpsons’ blasphemy episode” [Telegraph] After using Facebook to criticize politico’s funeral, women in India arrested for “hurting religious sentiments” [AFP] Indonesian man jailed, attacked by mob for writing “God does not exist” on Facebook group [Andrew Stuttaford, Secular Right] “A year of blasphemy” [Popehat]
  • Protesters block student access to “men’s-rights” speech at U. Toronto [Joshua Kennon via @amyalkon]

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on October 30, 2012

  • Australia: after talk displeasing to authorities, popular radio host ordered to undergo “factual accuracy training” [Sydney Morning Herald]
  • Jenzabar loses an appeal against documentary filmmaker [Paul Alan Levy, CL&P; earlier here, etc.]
  • “A Few Words On Reddit, Gawker, and Anonymity” [Popehat]
  • Canada: “Federal Court Upholds Hate Speech Provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act” [Yosie Saint-Cyr, Slaw] “Canadian Government Official Calls Anti-Abortion Speech Illegal ‘Bullying’” [Hans Bader, CEI, Amy Alkon]
  • U.N.-regulated web? No thanks [Robert McDowell, Federalist Society, earlier here, etc.]
  • Further thoughts from Kevin Underhill on being sued by Orly Taitz [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • U.S. State Department official: we’re not just going to roll over on this free speech business [Volokh]

“Scapegoating Free Speech”

by Walter Olson on September 29, 2012

Hans Bader on the curious insistence on blaming the Benghazi attack on a YouTube video [CEI] Greg Lukianoff responds to Eric Posner on blasphemy laws [HuffPo, earlier] “Uh oh. The Atlantic gets in the game of trolling the First Amendment.” [Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry on this by Garrett Epps, earlier on Epps]

P.S. Ken at Popehat rates the President’s U.N. speech mostly good, with a few lapses. “It’s time for Canada to repeal its prohibition on blasphemous libel.” [Derek From, Canadian Constitution Foundation Justice Report] And in the “Pastitsios” affair, advocates of free speech in Greece are protesting the blasphemy arrest of a 27 year old man over his website, which makes fun of a well-known deceased Orthodox monk. [BoingBoing]

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Free speech roundup

by Walter Olson on June 21, 2012

  • Courtesy Stanley Fish, Prof. Jeremy Waldron gets a long, favorable hearing in the New York Times for his let’s-suppress-hate-speech proposals [Opinionator]
  • On the other hand, free speech scores huge victory in Canada as parliament mostly along party lines votes to repeal notorious Section 13 of Canadian Human Rights Act, authorizing private federal complaints over alleged hate speech [Jonathan Kay]
  • “Christian Nation” historical writer and Texas curriculum reshaper David Barton sues critics; don’t let him find out what Ed Brayton keeps writing [Reason]
  • Pennsylvania bill: “Crime for Minor to Post or Send Messages That ‘Emotional[ly] Distress’ Another Minor?” [Volokh]
  • Norfolk, Va. business puts up a big sign protesting eminent domain scheme to seize its property; guess what happens next [Marc Scribner, Open Market]
  • Chris Evans nastygram to Lipstick Alley: Has Hollywood already forgotten about the Streisand effect? [Paul Alan Levy, Mike Masnick/TechDirt] Also at Public Citizen, the dispute over a boilermaker union official’s effort to unmask an online critic has now been settled (earlier);
  • Interesting bank case: “Employer SLAPPed for Suing Ex-Employee” [Shaw Valenza]

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  • “Stamp Out Online Misogyny?” [Wendy Kaminer, Brendan O'Neill]
  • Jacob Mchangama of Danish think tank CEPOS on blasphemy laws and Islam-critical speech [Nov. 4 FedSoc., PDF]
  • Niall Ferguson to sue LRB scribe? “If he won’t apologise for calling me a racist, I will persecute him until he does” [Guardian; more, Atlantic Wire] New York judge quashes subpoena seeking to identify anonymous bloggers in rabbi-defamation suit [Paul Alan Levy]
  • “If bullying has gone down, how can it be a pandemic?” By broadening its definition to include such behaviors as “eye-rolling” and pointed non-invitation [Hans Bader/Examiner, Neal McCluskey/Cato]
  • “I strongly recommend an umbrella policy for all bloggers. Defending myself cost nearly $100,000, thankfully paid by insurance.” [@DianaHsieh]
  • Federal crime under CFAA to lie on the internet? [Kerr, more, yet more, Balko]
  • “Will Canada Repeal its Hate Speech Law?” [Peter Worthington, Frum Forum]

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November 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 11, 2011

Sighs of relief after a decision in a defamation case (Crooks v. Newton) reported on earlier. [Michael Geist] Justice Abella:

I would conclude that a hyperlink, by itself, should never be seen as “publication” of the content to which it refers.

Adventurous litigants in U.S. defamation cases have occasionally argued otherwise. On Canada, see also proposals to criminalize links to so-called hate speech.

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October 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 4, 2011

  • Mass torts specialists vs. vendor: “Prominent Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Ordered to Pay Up After Losing Breach of Contract Trial” [Above the Law]
  • “You’ll have to get it on the street” — NYC’s thriving black market in pesticides [NYT, more]
  • Benjamin Barton on his new book, “The Lawyer-Judge Bias” [Truth on the Market, earlier here, etc.]
  • Medicare will not press “secondary payer” liability clawback claims below $300 [Miller and Zois, PoL, NLJ]
  • Class action roundup: “Sleeper” Supreme Court case raises question of whether class action certification requires consumer harm [Fisher/Forbes] Important Easterbrook opinion in Aqua Dots case puts curbs on class certification [PoL, Fisher/Forbes, Beck] Frey, Mortenson et al.: “The non-fiction class action” [Trask, OUP blog; earlier here, etc.]
  • Free speech roundup: Canada proposal could criminalize linking to alleged hate speech [Hosting Industry Watch] More on Canadian denouncers of speechcrime [Ken at Popehat] You don’t say: “$60,000 Ruling Against Truthful Blogger Tests Limits of the First Amendment” [Citizen Media Law] What happens when a defamation plaintiff asks a court for a takedown order? [same] Argentina: subpoenas step up pressure on reporters, editors who report on economy [NYT via Walter Russell Mead]
  • Should the law punish energy companies whose operations kill birds? Depends on whose osprey is being gored [Perry]

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Barrick Gold and Banro Corporation have sued three authors of a book that alleged human rights violations in African mining operations; Barrick has also threatened suit against a Vancouver-based publisher over a not-yet-published book. [BoingBoing, Canadian Business, Quill and Quire; FreeSpeechAtRisk.ca]

Ontario is being urged to tackle the problem. “The thing about SLAPPs is they are very effective. They are so effective that you never hear about them, because, the whole thing about them is, they are trying to shut people up,” said an environmentalist who favors broader protection for speech. [The Globe and Mail]

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