The New Cyber Safety Act

Everyone agrees that bullying and cyberbullying is wrong. People shouldn’t be bullied in real life and people shouldn’t be cyberbullied online. It’s doubtful that you will find any reasonable person who thinks otherwise.

Last week, mainstream media reported that Nova Scotia had passed Bill 61, known as the Cyber Safety Act that was introduced in April. The intent was to provide another legal recourse for Victims of cyberbullying that would allow them or third-party witnesses of the abuse to request a CyberSCAN investigative unit to step in and take action against the alleged cyberbully or cyberbullies.

According to the CBC, Glen Canning, father of Rehtaeh Parson, was quoted as saying:

“It’s going to be a big wake-up call. Once you get a few people in court, and being charged with cyberbullying crimes — or you’ve got some parents being brought up on charges of crimes their children committed — then you’re going to see people turn their heads and kind of take notice that you’re not hiding behind keyboards anymore.”

While much of what Mr. Canning said is correct, the fact of the matter is that the wording of an act that’s rushed through oftentimes has flaws in it that allow the letter of the law to be misused and abused. In this case, the concern many have with this law is that it opens the door to bullies and cyberbullies who know how to play the system to further victimize their targets.

Here’s what Bill 61 says in part:

Bill 61_IMAGE 2

In other words, the Cyber Safety Act allows an individual to apply to the courts to have an Order of Protection issued against an ALLEGED cyberbully based on evidence provided to the courts by the individual — or someone acting on behalf of the individual — making the application. The accused is NOT granted the opportunity to defend himself or herself against the allegations.

If a bully was so inclined (and there are many who would feel so inclined), he or she could make up evidence — with or without the help of a third-party — against a target and victimize that person by way of an Order of Protection.

The Order of Protection would, among other things, deprive the alleged bully of many things, not the least of which would be the right to speak out against his or her accuser as it’s very likely that such an Order would include that the alleged bully be prohibited from saying or writing anything about his or her accuser.

The bully could then make up more evidence — with or without the help of a third-party — that would make it appear that the accused had violated the Order, and the accused could then face not only stiff fines, up to two years less a day in jail, stiff fines and jail time, and quite possibly a civil suit launched by the bully.

Bill 61_IMAGE 1

It’s not just a pocket of people who see the inherent dangers in the legislation. Others have seen it and have written about it. People like Jesse Brown of Maclean’s Magazine.

What problems do you see resulting from this legislation in Nova Scotia? Do you think it’s a good move, or are you concerned that it will lead to even more victimization of those who are targeted for abuse by savvy bullies who know their way around the system?

Elyse Bruce

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