Social Networks, Defamation and Privacy: Internet Provides No Immunity

December 10th, 2013

Internet and social networks have become a venue for various types of harmful acts. Accessibility, ease of use and immediacy are all characteristics that facilitate the dissemination of slanderous statements, intellectual property infringements, violations of one’s good name and image as well as breaches of contractual obligations, particularly within the context of an employment contract.

Social media also constitutes a source of information that can be quite relevant, especially in the context of work relations. Although the Internet does not provide any legal immunity, the anonymous world of electronic communications and complex communication networks have proven to be significant challenges when attempting to obtain and preserve admissible evidence, as well as for the exercise of legal remedies.

In numerous cases, author identification is a major obstacle and content removal requests through administrative procedures set up by various platforms have proven to be an appropriate solution. In certain instances, cross-checking information and the use of data banks can result in tracing an author or the party responsible for the dissemination. Ultimately, a victim may have to ask the Court for disclosure of the contact information relating to the user’s IP address or to seek either an injunction prohibiting the dissemination or removal of the prejudicial content through a Court order.

Moreover, in the context of an employment relationship, the expectation of employee privacy is a key factor to be considered when launching an investigation so that information collected can be used as evidence. The Supreme Court holds that the adoption of a policy cannot completely exclude a reasonable expectation of privacy. Thus, an employer will not be exempted from disclosing the circumstances that would warrant a specific audit.