Freedom of Tweets

Devin Conway

Canada had its first ever Twitter harassment lawsuit brought to trial last week, and in a ruling that is sure to set a precedent for similar cases moving forward, the defendant Gregory Alan Elliott was found not guilty.

Elliott was arrested in 2012 after women’s rights activists Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly alleged that they felt threatened by his tweets in a series of accusations including but not limited to: constantly keeping up with the two women and knowing their whereabouts, as well as engaging in a number of heated exchanges on various issues.

The charges were dismissed as the court cited the inability to prove that Elliott had been the author of the tweets and recognized that the activists continued to engage with him despite their claims of feeling threatened, while also noting the need for all tweets involved in order to have a proper context to pursue a legitimate criminal harassment charge.

In a statement that is sure to resonate with free speech activists, the judge in this case acknowledged that although Elliott’s language at times could be “vulgar and obscene”, no matter how “offensive or wrong” his statements may have been, he was completely within his rights to express himself in a dissenting manner on social media just as if it were a face-to-face interaction.