Friday, January 22, 2016

Elliott acquitted in Twitter harassment trial

Toronto man found not guilty in Twitter harassment trial - The Globe and Mail - Paola Loriggio:

January 22, 2015 - "A controversial acquittal in what’s believed to be Canada’s first criminal harassment trial involving Twitter is being hailed by some as a victory for freedom of speech and condemned by others as a green light for online attacks.

"Gregory Alan Elliott was cleared on all charges stemming from his dealings with two local women’s rights activists, Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly, on the popular social network....

"Elliott, a graphic designer and father of four, was arrested in November 2012 after months of tweeting back and forth with the activists....

"While there is 'no doubt' that Guthrie and Reilly were harassed by Elliott, either due to the volume or content of his messages, that alone does not meet the legal threshold for a conviction, Ontario Court Judge Brent Knazan said.

"In order to convict, the Crown must prove the accused knowingly or recklessly harassed another person through conduct that caused them to reasonably fear for their safety.

"Elliott’s tweets contained nothing of a 'violent or sexual nature,' and there was no indication he intended to hurt the women so their fear could not be justified, Knazan said.

"In the posts, Elliott was largely explaining himself and furthering his views 'however offensive or wrong they may be,' the judge said, while recognizing the language could be 'vulgar and sometimes obscene.'

"Guthrie and Reilly were unreasonable in expecting Elliott to keep out of Twitter conversations they were involved in simply because they asked him to, nor could the use of hashtags be considered an attempt to contact them directly, he said.

"'Once someone creates a hashtag, anyone can use it,' he said. 'Everyone has to be able to use it freely; anything less will limit the operation of Twitter in a way that is not consistent with freedom of expression.'"

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