Three Ottawa residents are asking an Ontario court to rule that Ottawa’s Mayor has violated their Charter rights under Section 2(b) where it refers to freedom of expression by blocking them on Twitter. The Mayor is an active Twitter user about developments at City Hall along with civic news, events and issues. The three applicants allege the Mayor blocked them on Twitter after they criticized something he said or prodded him about whether he would attend certain Mayoral debates. The Mayor’s argument is that it is his personal Twitter account and he has the right not to be attacked and harassed by the same individuals on a regular basis. The lawyer for the applicants says that argument doesn’t hold water because the Mayor is tweeting about public business all the time. In the U.S. it was ruled unconstitutional under the First Amendment for Donald Trump to block Twitter users from his account. This is the first time a legal challenge of this kind has been filed in a Canadian court and the court’s decision will likely reverberate beyond the city of Ottawa as many elected officials across the country take to Twitter to keep constituents who use this type of social media informed. I think the three applicants might win if all they were doing, as they claim, was following the Mayor for civic information and “occasionally” engaging with him with back-and-forth comments. I think the Mayor should win if, as he suggests, the three were “regularly attacking and harassing him”. There is a difference and it’s up to the court to decide where the line is and if it was crossed. Anyone, including politicians, should be allowed to block on Twitter or unfriend on Facebook, someone who is attacking and harassing them on a regular basis.
That’s Coffeetalk. I’m Vic Dubois.