Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another attack on free speech in Canada

We read:
"Here we go again: A Canadian court has ordered Google and Canada’s two largest ISPS to reveal the identity of anonymous emailers, The National Post reports.

After York president Mamdouh Shoukri announced the hiring of Martin Singer as the dean of the school’s new Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies - calling him a “renowned scholar of Chinese history” and “such a strong scholar and administrator” - a message from a Gmail account went out from a group called York Faculty Concerned About the Future of York University. The message accused Shoukri of “perpetrating an outrageous fraud” and added: "Lying about scholarly credentials is the gravest offence.

The universiity went to court, suing Google for the IP adresses associated with the Gmail account. Google turned over that information, identifying Bell Canada and Rogers Communications as the ISPs. Last month they sued the ISPs for the customer information, a motion the ISPs didn’t oppose.

Justice George R. Strathy of Ontario Superior Court released his reasons for granting the orders, saying it was a reasonable balance between protecting freedom of speech and protection from libel.

I was cautiouslly supportive of the judge’s move in the supermodel case, since (a) there was some argument that there was actual damage, (b) the public interest in the speech was modest and (c) the court appeared to consider the free speech right versus the right to litigate.

In this case, though, the public interest is quite substantial: the case involves not just the right to speak, but academic freedoom, fear of retaliation and the quality of a leading academic institution. The university has a much larger bully pulpit than the Concerned Faculty: they can issue press releases, do media interviews, release the CV of the professor. This is a debate properly held in the public square, not the courtroom.



Anonymous said...

The Peoples Republic of Canada.

Anonymous said...

"The Peoples Republic of Canada."

Aren't you the clever one.