Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

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Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#1  Postby BrandySpears » Feb 03, 2012 10:04 pm

For two years, a Mississippi blogger conducted a vitriolic “nightmare” campaign against two gay Nova Scotia men who operate a wilderness getaway near Kemptville in the southwest end of the province.

Doug K. Handshoe, a certified public accountant and inveterate blogger, has never met the Trout Point Lodge owners Charles Leary and Vaughan Perret or stayed at their getaway. Yet he consistently made graphic homophobic comments on his website, accused the two owners of all kinds of criminal acts and disparaged the small resort in the Tobeatic Wilderness reserve.

“It’s been a nightmare, I have to tell you,” an emotional Perret told the Toronto Star Thursday.

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Hood agreed and this week awarded Leary and Perret $425,000 in damages — reported to be the largest defamation damage award in Nova Scotia history — and issued a permanent injunction against Handshoe.

Besides Leary, 45, and Perret, 52, there is third partner in the 12-unit lodge, Daniel Abel of New Orleans. All three are Americans.

Handshoe, who considers himself a bit of forensic auditor, told the Star in an interview he has no intentions of paying and will go to the U.S. court to have the Canadian ruling struck down on the basis that it is an affront to his constitutional rights of freedom of speech.

“I won’t be gagged,” he said. “In the U.S. . . . we are allowed to call people bad names if we want.”

Perret and Leary were collateral damage of alleged political corruption that has its roots in Louisiana, where former Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard and other parish officials are under indictment in a federal probe of alleged corruption.

It turns out that Broussard owned two cottages on the same road as Trout Point Lodge, but New Orleans’ The Times-Picayune mistakenly reported that Broussard owned Trout Point Lodge. The award-winning paper later apologized for the error in the 2010 story. That’s where Handshoe came into the picture.

He refused to believe the correction and insisted for more than two years that Perret and Leary were part of the conspiracy, leaning heavily on the fact the two once managed Broussard’s cottages and that Broussard and the two men were members of the Billy’s Hill Trail Society.

“So I started investigating and the more I dug the more I found,” Handshoe said.

“We don’t know him, we’ve never seen him, we’ve never met him. We have no idea who he is other than he’s this blogger in Mississippi . . . other than he turned his sights on us,” Perret said. “Partially, it’s homophobia. If you look at the blog you will see constant references really homophobic language, hateful language.”

http://www.thestar.com/news/article/112 ... rders?bn=1
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#3  Postby MoonLit » Feb 03, 2012 10:15 pm

“I won’t be gagged,” he said. “In the U.S. . . . we are allowed to call people bad names if we want.”


But he did more than that. He accused the owners of criminal acts. Something tells me that's not covered under the freedom of speech.
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#4  Postby BrandySpears » Feb 03, 2012 11:06 pm

Good luck on enforcing that in the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPEECH_Act_of_2010
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#5  Postby quixotecoyote » Feb 03, 2012 11:09 pm

BrandySpears wrote:Good luck on enforcing that in the US: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPEECH_Act_of_2010


I don't see the problem. It seems like the Canadian could have made the same case in a US court and had it go in their favor, which would put it solidly within the allowed enforcement provisions of that act.
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#6  Postby Mojzu » Feb 03, 2012 11:20 pm

Things like defamation and libel laws are just nefarious ways of subverting freedom of speech. What the blogger was doing was awful and reprehensible, but nothing that was (or should be) illegal to my mind, unless we want to make lying and posting stupid things online against the law. In fact the most common response to these situations is increased awareness and support of the people/business that the blogger is trying to defame, I wouldn't be surprised if the lodge owners get a ton of new business over this.

We should regulate news companies and other businesses so that they are prohibited from maliciously misleading the public through any medium. But we shouldn't monitor and regulate what every individual has to say and how factual or appropriate they are, as you would pretty much kill the internet (at least the legal part of it) overnight.
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#7  Postby quixotecoyote » Feb 03, 2012 11:23 pm

Mojzu wrote:Things like defamation and libel laws are just nefarious ways of subverting freedom of speech. What the blogger was doing was awful and reprehensible, but nothing that was (or should be) illegal to my mind, unless we want to make lying and posting stupid things online against the law. In fact the most common response to these situations is increased awareness and support of the people/business that the blogger is trying to defame, I wouldn't be surprised if the lodge owners get a ton of new business over this.

We should regulate news companies and other businesses so that they are prohibited from maliciously misleading the public through any medium. But we shouldn't monitor and regulate what every individual has to say and how factual or appropriate they are, as you would pretty much kill the internet (at least the legal part of it) overnight.


Disagree. If someone is spreading lies: claiming you are engaged in criminal acts, that your business is corrupt, and generally engaging in a campaign of baseless and malicious slander, you should have an avenue of recourse.
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#8  Postby BrandySpears » Feb 03, 2012 11:37 pm

I'm curious to know how the Canadian court arrived at that amount and what percentage of the reward was given because of name-calling "the girls".
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#9  Postby Calilasseia » Feb 03, 2012 11:50 pm

Mojzu wrote:Things like defamation and libel laws are just nefarious ways of subverting freedom of speech. What the blogger was doing was awful and reprehensible, but nothing that was (or should be) illegal to my mind, unless we want to make lying and posting stupid things online against the law.


Actually, disseminating lies in this manner is already illegal. That's what libel and slander laws cover. Their original purpose consisted of preventing the erection of malicious falsehoods resulting in material damage being suffered by the recipients. That said laws have been abused by rich people with nasty little secrets in their closets, secrets that they want to keep hidden from the rest of the world, doesn't alter this basic fact.

I don't think you'll find much support here, for the idea that people who fabricate malicious lies for the express aim of inflicting material harm upon the victims, should be allowed to do so in a consequence-free manner.

Mojzu wrote:In fact the most common response to these situations is increased awareness and support of the people/business that the blogger is trying to defame, I wouldn't be surprised if the lodge owners get a ton of new business over this.


And if the malicious lies spread by this blogger result in a homophobe deciding to firebomb their business, what then? Just shrug your shoulders and say "tough, that's the price of free speech"?

Mojzu wrote:We should regulate news companies and other businesses so that they are prohibited from maliciously misleading the public through any medium. But we shouldn't monitor and regulate what every individual has to say and how factual or appropriate they are, as you would pretty much kill the internet (at least the legal part of it) overnight.


No one is suggesting this for a moment - you're erecting a manifest red herring here. The facts of the case, are that the individual in question mounted a campaign of hate against his victims, accusing them falsely of complicity in criminal offences (despite the fact that Canadian law enforcement never saw any reason to investigate them), and in addition disseminated some nasty instances of hate speech, of the sort that would have led to action far sooner had he uttered such sentiments against, say, African-Americans. Would you be so happy to support this blogger, if he had, for example, posted about two African-Americans, referring to them as "welfare parasite niggers"?
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#10  Postby BrandySpears » Feb 04, 2012 12:29 am

A Canadian court rules on what is true and false in local Louisiana politics? The lodge owners also have a similar lawsuit against a Louisiana TV station which hasn't retracted their story.


And if the malicious lies spread by this blogger result in a homophobe deciding to firebomb their business, what then? Just shrug your shoulders and say "tough, that's the price of free speech"?


I can't see anything that the blogger has posted that could be construed as incitement to violence.
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#11  Postby Mojzu » Feb 04, 2012 12:33 am

Calilasseia wrote:I don't think you'll find much support here, for the idea that people who fabricate malicious lies for the express aim of inflicting material harm upon the victims, should be allowed to do so in a consequence-free manner.


I don't think they should be allowed to do so in a consequence-free manner, if people post objectionable content and fabrications such as this I think people should push back with the facts and attempt to spread awareness of the bigotry some groups still face. But do I think there should be legal consequences? No, not for individuals posting these things on some discussion board or blog.

And if the malicious lies spread by this blogger result in a homophobe deciding to firebomb their business, what then? Just shrug your shoulders and say "tough, that's the price of free speech"?


Then the firebomber should be arrested and dealt with by the courts, perhaps the police could have used this public information in crime prevention by identifying people more likely to carry out these crimes? As long as the blog was not explicitly calling for people to enact physical violence or property damage, I don't think they can be held personally to account. Demagoguery on the part of blogs and other media is obviously an important factor in the lead up to later crimes, but I don't think it's fair to punish (by censoring) the opinions of perhaps dozens of blogs/news stories/online debates because they may have contributed to someone committing a criminal act.

No one is suggesting this for a moment - you're erecting a manifest red herring here. The facts of the case, are that the individual in question mounted a campaign of hate against his victims, accusing them falsely of complicity in criminal offences (despite the fact that Canadian law enforcement never saw any reason to investigate them), and in addition disseminated some nasty instances of hate speech, of the sort that would have led to action far sooner had he uttered such sentiments against, say, African-Americans. Would you be so happy to support this blogger, if he had, for example, posted about two African-Americans, referring to them as "welfare parasite niggers"?


I would find such content similarly objectionable in the extreme. But again as long as they're not directly calling for crimes to be committed or committing any criminal acts in the process (distributing personal information, etc.), they should be free to express opinions, however vile, without fear of legal consequence. We can't impose such a legal consequence onto individuals who will mostly be unable to afford lawyers fees and other costs that would be associated with them defending comments in court, most people would simply choose not to fight such censorship because of the prohibitive cost, which would lead to companies and monied/powerful individuals issuing take-downs on content they simply don't like (which we see today in falsely issued take-down notices/DMCA abuse/trademark violation disputes/Libel laws used against scientists and reporters).
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#12  Postby CdesignProponentsist » Feb 04, 2012 12:59 am

Doug K. Handshoe, a certified public accountant and inveterate blogger


I read that as invertebrate the first time :lol: I guess it would still fit.
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#13  Postby BrandySpears » Feb 04, 2012 1:26 am

US law on proving malice:
The actual malice standard requires that the plaintiff in a defamation or libel case prove that the publisher of the statement in question knew that the statement was false or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. Because of the extremely high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and the difficulty in proving essentially what is inside a person's head, such cases—when they involve public figures—rarely prevail.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_T ... ._Sullivan
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Re: Canada Orders US Blogger To Pay $425K Defamation Suit

#14  Postby Stormcrow » Feb 04, 2012 2:30 am

BrandySpears,

Actual malice only applies to public figures and public servants. It would not help a defendant who is involved in a libel case against a person who does not fall into either of those categories, such as the plaintiffs.
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