How a Canadian Court Has Addressed Internet Harassment and Why International Lawmakers Should Pay Close Attention

A blog post by Amanda Bombino, Junior Associate

Internet harassment has plagued the timelines, feeds, and “for you pages” of many on social media. It is pretty much expected, especially those with a large following, that one will experience online harassment either occasionally or regularly. Research has shown that exposure to internet harassment regularly impacts a user’s mental health and well-being, particularly that of our youth.[1] In addressing internet harassment on social media, a Canadian court has taken a small, yet key step to combat the issue from the lens of tort law.

In 2021, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice created a new common law tort for internet harassment in the landmark decision, Caplan v. Atas.[2] The decision effectively provides victims of online harassment with a legal remedy to help diminish the impact that targeted online harassment has had on their personal and professional lives. Here, the court vested title to the defendant’s social media accounts to the plaintiffs, with orders that allowed them to take steps to have the harassing posts removed.[3]

As internet harassment continues to be an ongoing, global issue, lawmakers should consider the possibility of creating policies that protect those who are targeted on the internet. In the United States, the question about free speech on social media in light of increased hate speech and bullying has both sparked a nationwide conversation[4], and even a social media company buyout.[5] Federal policy has yet to address internet harassment on social media due to concerns about the First Amendment[6] and corporate freedom for social media companies[7]. imperative that the US becomes a global leader in the necessary quest to protect targeted users.

[1] See Irene Kwan et al., Cyberbullying and Children and Young People’s Mental Health: A Systematic Map of Systematic Reviews, 23 Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 69, 76 (Feb. 5, 2020) (highlighting a negative association between cyberbullying and the mental health of children and young people).

[2] Caplan v. Atas, 2021 ONSC 670 (Ont. Super. Ct. Just. 2021) (Canada).

[3] Id. ¶ 228.

[4] Brett M. Pinkus, The Limits of Free Speech in Social Media, UNT Dallas Coll. of L., (April 26, 2021),

[5] Kate Conger and Lauren Hirsch, Elon Musk Completes $44 Billion Deal to Own Twitter, N.Y. Times, (Oct. 27, 2022),

[6] Will Oremus, Want to regulate social media? The First Amendment may stand in the way, The Washington Post, (May 30, 2022),


[7] Daisuke Wakabayashi, Legal Shield for Social Media Is Targeted by Lawmakers, N.Y. Times, (May 28, 2020),

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