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Canadian Sues The Messenger

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Wayne Crookes, a former campaign manager of the Green Party of Canada, is suing Google, Wikipedia and openpolitics.ca for libel. He is suing the sites for posting made by anonymous users on Google’s Blogspot, for an entry under his name on Wikipedia, and on openpolitics.ca, a political forum run by Michael Pilling a Green Party activist.

Canadian Sues The Messenger
Canadian Sues The Messenger
Canadian Sues The Messenger

"I resent very much irresponsible statements made very recklessly. I’m determined that the people who have acted so irresponsibly will find that there are consequences," Mr. Crookes said.

"I hope that the outcome is that people will realize they have obligations and that they will be forced to accept responsibility for their actions. The larger the organization, the greater the expectation that they will be held accountable for their actions."

In the U.S. the Communications Decency Act protects service providers from being held liable for what their users say.  In Canada the situation is more complex because there is no clear law when it comes to libel and Internet defamation.

Mr.Pilling said he plans to defend himself in the case and understands why Mr.Crookes is taking legal action. "It is a case that could potentially go all the way to the Supreme Court because there is very little on the books in Canadian case law with respect to libel and Internet defamation," he said.

He went on to point out that as operator of the siteopenpolitics.ca, that he is being held responsible for edits that were made by others who were either registered users or anonymous users.

He added that even though the pages were removed that he is still being held liable.

Dermod Travis, a spokesman for Mr. Crookes, said the defendants did not respond appropriately when they were told they had crossed a line.

While libel is a serious matter taking this kind of legal action will raise plenty of eyebrows and invite more public scrutiny of Mr.Crookes character and reputation.

Canadian Sues The Messenger
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  • Michael Pilling

    Thanks for covering this story. In Canada, we have a big problem with libel laws undermining freedom of speech. I manage a wiki and allow people to edit pages on political issues. I don’t preview or in any way manage these contributions before they are live on the net. When Crookes first contacted me, i assisted him by removing the worst comments from the pages. I did not remove content which in my view was factual or “fair comment”. In his suit (which you may find at https://eservice.ag.gov.bc.ca/cso/index.do) note that the comments i am being sued for are for the most part, those same comments i removed. He complains that they are still available in the page history. It seems like he is ready to sue the whole internet. He has sued the moderators of a listserve on which the controversy about him was discussed. He has legally threatened several other bloggers and political discussion sites in which he is mentioned. You may be next, but fortunately under American laws your rights are much better protected.

  • barracuda219

    Mr. Crookes (if you are reading this)

    By going after people like Jon Newton, you are going after the wrong people.

    All Jon has done is link to the information that you are suing Google and Wikipedia.

    Posting links to this story, written by others, isn’t libel, Mr. Crookes.

    Did you ask Jon to remove the allegedly libelous content? It appears not.

    Did you ask Jon to cease and desist to mention you? No, you did not.

    Are you a public figure, Mr. Crookes? It would appear so.

    Jon has exercised what is called the “neutral reporting privilege” to report on the fact that you are suing Google and Wikipedia, on a matter of public interest, pertaining to a public person.

    By using the neutral reporting privilege to state that legal action is being taken about those allegedly defamatory statements isn’t libel.

    I think you are misusing and abusing the libel laws, Mr. Crookes. Jon didn’t make the allegedly defamatory statements; at absolute worst, he has only reported the fact that they were made.

    I am involved in an internet libel case myself in Canada, and I am being represented by Canada’s best attorney in it. My claims are legitimate, as my case involves malicious false statments of fact willfully made with reckless disregard for the truth. I am aware that the neutral reporting privilege will no doubt be used to report the defamatory statements which the libeler originally published.

    But I am not going to be so foolish as to sue the news media for reporting the facts of the case.

    The libel laws exist to protect both public and private persons from being victims of defamatory and false statements of fact.

    I have an interest in what happens here, as I fear your abuse of the Canadian defamation laws will erode the legitimate right of claim by victims of libel against those who intentionally act with recklessness and malice to destroy peoples’ reputations.

    Your actions threaten to invoke the creation of similar laws in Canada to that dirty and corrupt piece of legislation in the United States, the Communications Decency Act (47 U.S.C. 230) which totally holds ISPs and web hosts completely immune for any wrongdoing.

    If similar laws are enacted in Canada, it would mean negligent and reckless internet providers like Google would be held totally immune from the tortuous actions of abusive users – even when the provider is fully aware that the statements are defamatory; even when the provider is willfully negligent in taking action to prevent further distribution of the libel.

    Unlike the filthy Google organization, Jon is not reckless in the way he runs his site, and he is responsive to complaints. Why didn’t you ask Jon to remove the comments if you found them to be libelous before you served him? Wikipedia will also act to remove libel if you ask them; they do have a Biography of Living Persons team to examine such allegations.

    Since the corrupt Google organization does neither, and it operates recklessly and negligently with complete disregard for not only the public, but its own policies, I’ll make a deal with you, Mr. Crookes:

    Drop the suit against Jon (who has no money), Michael Pilling, Wikipedia, and the other bloggers… and I will join in your suit against Google, where I have enough evidence of their recklessness and negligence to make the case financially rewarding to both of us.

    What do you say?

    Please reply initially on this board, and then I will telephone your office. But please don’t take too long – my attorneys are preparing my own case against Google, and I am prepared to go it alone if necessary.

    This isn’t a troll; I am dead serious.