Canadian Court Says The Obvious: You Cannot Say Whatever You Want Online And Get Away With It

For whatever reason, people these days believe that you can say the most hateful, vile and distasteful things online without any consequences. But that’s not true. It never has been. And that fact has been reinforced by a recent court decision that CBC News is highlighting:

A former Mississauga, Ont., mayoral candidate charged two years ago with a hate crime, displayed “horrific” behaviour when he made “hateful Islamophobic” comments against Paramount Fine Foods owner Mohamad Fakih, a judge has ruled.

In a decision released Monday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded $2.5 million in damages to Fakih and Paramount, a chain of Middle Eastern restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area, for defamation over a series of videos and online posts made by Kevin Johnston, some on his website Freedom Report, starting in July 2017. 

And:

From July 23 to Aug. 1 of 2018, the judgment says, the defendants published eight videos making false and malicious statements, including that Fakih was an “economic terrorist” who was under investigation by CSIS and that Paramount was “little more than a front” whose purpose was to facilitate “Islamic discussion.”

After being hit with a libel suit, the ruling says, Johnston responded with even more false information, this time claiming Fakih was funding terror groups and using his restaurants to bring in “illegal aliens.”

“Mr. Johnston profits from the promotion of hatred. He takes paid speaking engagements featuring anti-Muslim statements, and Freedom Report solicits donations,” the decision says. 

In addition to the videos, the decision says, Johnston approached Fakih while he was at Erin Mills Town Centre mall with his three children, accusing him of being a terrorist and snapping photos of them, even following them into the parking lot as they tried to leave the mall.

While some of this does extend to the real world, this guy clearly uses the Internet to push his racist and hateful agenda because of the potential reach that it gives him. And let’s be clear. None of this is acceptable and it should be punished accordingly. But if you ask me, the courts shouldn’t be alone in this. Companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter need to get way more aggressive when dealing with hate speech. While part of me is wary of social media companies acting as judge and jury, something like this clearly crosses the line. And when it does cross that line, it has to be nuked out of existence instantly. The fact is that blatant racism cannot be allowed to exist in a free and democratic society. Which is why a decision like this is so important as it reinforces that fact.

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