Cyber Libel Updates

Canadian Internet Defamation Rulings
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2016 June 28
Goldhar v Haaretz.com, 2016 ONCA 515, leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada granted: [2016] S.C.C.A. No. 388.

The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from 2015 ONSC 1128 and held that an internet libel action based on a newspaper article uploaded in Israel to the defendant newspaper’s Hebrew and English-language websites can and should proceed in Ontario. The appellate court noted that the motion judge in the court below found that the article came to the attention of many of the people in the plaintiff’s Toronto office and that it is likely that 200-300 people read the article online. The plaintiff specifically limited his claim to damages for reputational harm suffered in Canada and agree in advance to pay the travel and accommodation expenses for the defendant newspaper’s witnesses.

The Court of Appeal rejected defence arguments this was a case of “libel tourism,” noting that the impugned article put the plaintiff’s Canadian connection “front and centre by acknowledging that he is a long distance operator and spends most of his time in Canada and by asserting that he imported his management model for [a Tel Aviv football club] from his main business interest, his Canadian shopping centre partnership.” The appeal court held that the article made the plaintiff’s management model and its Canadian origins an “integral part” of the alleged sting of the newspaper article.

With respect to the defence argument that Israel was a more convenient forum, the Court of Appeal held that the motions judge was entitled to find that reluctant foreign witnesses “could be compelled to provide evidence in Israel through the use of letters of request (issued by the Ontario Court to the foreign court] and that videoconferencing was a potential means of obtaining the evidence of any witnesses unwilling to come to Ontario.