The administrator of a Facebook group called “STOP Gail Benoit from Ever Dealing with Dogs” lost a case in a Nova Scotia provincial court.
Benoit has been convicted of multiple animal cruelty charges over the last few years. She has convictions for assault on an animal welfare officer and assault. The establishment of the Facebook site took place in 2013).
In a decision published on Wednesday, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Diane Rowe ordered the administrator of the Stop Gail Benoit Facebook group to stop using it.
An application was made to the court last July asking for an order to have the Facebook site disabled, as she claimed that the posts were threatening and aimed at preventing her from owning dogs. Langille did not show up for court. To meet the definition of cyber-bully established by the Cyber-Protection Act, a post must be of malicious intent and cause or be likely to cause harm to another individual’s health or well-being.
Several posts that met that bar were quoted in Rowe’s decision.
“I would have no issues breaking her legs. This bitch needs to be stopped but it looks like it’s up to us as the law never does a thing to her proof or not.”
“Yeah someone will be going to jail and it wont be her. But as long as she get in the ambulance I could probably live with it. I’ll tell ya I’s be getting my 267 dollars worth tho for an assault charge. Damn I could kill the bitch teach a criminals for 5 years and be out. Sometimes it’s nice living in noca Scotia.”
There are other postings the Court is satisfied were made on the group that referred to Ms. Benoit.
Rowe ordered Langille to take down the STOP Gail Benoit Facebook website.
The evidence that was accepted by the Court, as referenced in this decision, indicates that the “Stop Gail Benoit” Facebook group encouraged members to engage in a new, and disturbing, form of cyber vigilantism, facilitated by social media… The post that comments “it’s up to us as the law never does a thing to her proof or not” captures the intent of the “Stop Gail Benoit” group. The rule of law would be subverted readily if cyber vigilantism becomes a norm.
Protection of the public in accordance with the rule of law is the role of the criminal justice system in our democratic society, rather than of individuals via social media account.
Rowe said she was unable to deal with comments made on a second anti-Benoit Facebook site because the breeder hadn’t filed a court application.
The ruling may have important implications in Nova Scotia about what can and cannot be said on Facebook, despite the fact that public comments on the conduct of Benoit will not end.