Professor Hilary Young Contributes to LCO Defamation Law Reform Project

Author: Ed Bowes

Posted on Mar 23, 2020

Category: Faculty

The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) has published its final report titled Defamation Law in the Internet Age.

The multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional research project has been four years in the making and, according to the commission, examines “Ontario’s defamation laws and how they should be updated to account for ‘internet speech,’ including social media, blogs, internet platforms and digital media.”

UNB Law’s Professor Hilary Young was involved from the outset in several key roles: she was on the project's Advisory Committee, co-authored one of its five commissioned reports and helped organize the LCO's SSHRC-funded international conference on defamation law in the internet age. In addition, her research is cited throughout the report.

The commissioned paper, co-authored with University of Calgary Professor Emily Laidlaw, was a comprehensive review of internet intermediary liability in defamation. “Obviously, the old common law was not written with these kinds of cases in mind,” said Prof. Young. “We examined questions of liability relevant to the evolving internet age. Is Facebook liable for a third party post? Is Google liable for defamatory search engine results? Should they be?” The Laidlaw/Young report ultimately recommended changes to the meaning of the publication element of defamation, but also recommended imposing obligations on intermediaries when faced with user complaints that third party posts are defamatory. The LCO adopted these recommendations in its report.

“The LCO's defamation reform project has already had an international impact. Never before has there been such an in-depth examination of defamation law in Canada. The main goal is to influence legislation¬—I am hopeful the work we've done will lead to reform so that the law can better balance interests in reputation and expression in the modern internet context.”

Defamation Law in the Internet Age contains 39 sweeping recommendations to reform Ontario’s defamation laws.