It has been said that almost every concept and rule in the field of defamation law has to be reconsidered in light of the Internet. The Law Commission of Ontario’s Defamation Law and the Internet: Where Do We Go From Here? conference considers whether or how defamation law should be reformed in light of fast-moving and far-reaching developments in law, technology and social values.
Topics will include defamation, online speech and reputation, the relationship between freedom of expression and privacy, whether or how internet intermediaries (such as Facebook or Google) should be responsible for online defamation, internet “content moderation”, dispute resolution, and access to justice. The conference will feature internationally renowned scholars and practitioners.
The conference is a key component of the Law Commission of Ontario’s multi-year law reform project, Defamation Law in the Internet Age. Therefore, participants at the conference will have the opportunity to contribute to the law reform process in Ontario.
The programme includes the following sessions
Panel 1 Rethinking Defamation Law: The Setting for Reform
The starting point in any discussion of reform is consideration of defamation law’s core conceptual and doctrinal assumptions and an assessment of current defamation law, with emphasis on how well has it adapted to change, including and especially technological change. Some issues are: how well does defamation law align with current conceptions of tort liability and liability for reputational damage/harm? What are its conceptual and doctrinal shortfalls? What is technology’s place in any re‐examination of defamation law? How has internet technology challenged and/or undermined defamation law’s core assumptions?
Moderator: · Julia Lefebvre, Practitioner, Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP Panelists: · Jamie Cameron, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University · Brian MacLeod Rogers, Barrister, Toronto; Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University School of Journalism · Andrew Scott, Associate Professor in Law, London School of Economics
Panel 2 The Harms and Values Underlying Defamation Law in the Internet Age
A discussion of reform must be set within a framework of defamation law’s values and objectives. The panel will consider: reputational harm – how it is defined and understood in its nature and severity, both conventionally and more particularly in internet and online settings; reputation and privacy – whether and to what extent these values can or should be fused or remain distinctive; and expressive and media freedom – whether and to what extent values should be re‐balanced, either because of the rise of online defamation or enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or both.
Moderator: · Peter A. Downard, Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP Panelists: · Jane Bailey, Professor, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, Common Law Section · Andrew Kenyon, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre of Media and Communications Law, University of Melbourne Law School · Randall Stephenson, Ph.D. and author (A Crisis of Accountability: Public Libel Law and the Checking Function, forthcoming summer 2018)
Front Line Issues
Jurisdiction and anonymity are two of the most difficult problems in online defamation litigation; the decision whether and when to “unpublish” posted material raises important policy questions. The panelists will briefly offer a point of view and then engage in discussion on these issues with conference participants.
Moderator: · Madam Justice Wendy Matheson, Superior Court of Justice of Ontario Panelists: · Jurisdiction: Paul Schabas, Blakes LLP · Anonymity: Maanit Zemel, Zemel van Kampen LLP · Unpublishing: Kathy English, The Toronto Star
Responsibility for Defamation and the Problem of Intermediaries
Responsibility for defamatory content has traditionally rested on the concept of a publisher, the publication rule, and the doctrine of innocent dissemination. Though a controversial issue over time, the internet has dramatically shifted the landscape, raising difficult questions about whether, in what circumstances, and under what theory of responsibility different forms of internet intermediaries can or should be held liable for their role in disseminating or maintaining defamatory content online.
Moderator: · Professor Giuseppina D’Agostino, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University 4 Panelists: · Bram Abramson, Mozilla Foundation, Open Web Fellow · Christina Angelopoulos, University Lecturer, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law · Hilary Young, Associate Professor, University of New Brunswick, Faculty of Law
Resolving Online Defamation in the Internet Age
The pervasiveness of online defamation, in combination with the interest in access to justice, calls for re‐consideration of traditional, court‐based remediesfor defamation. Alternative solutions,such as online dispute resolution, can promote access to justice for those harmed by defamatory material, but must do so within a framework of principles that is attentive to process values and is mindful of the risks of over‐regulation.
Moderator: · Professor Trevor Farrow, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University Panelists: · Emily Laidlaw, Associate Professor, University of Calgary, Faculty of Law · Ethan Katsh, Director, National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution; Professor Emeritus of Legal Studies, University of Massachusetts (Amherst) · Darin Thompson, Legal Counsel, Ministry of Justice, British Columbia; Adjunct Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Victoria
The conference will be held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the Law Society of Ontario, Donald Lamont Centre, on Thursday May 3, 2018. You may also participate remotely through our live webcast. Registration is available until April 27, 2018.