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In the first ever case of criminal harassment in Canada over Twitter comments, Toronto man Gregory Alan Elliott has been found not guilty. Elliott was accused of harassing two feminist activists on Twitter. The harassment was alleged to have occurred over several months in 2012. Judge Brent Knazan handed down a lengthy ruling, explaining his decision in this case.

Knazan noted that Elliott’s tweets contained nothing of a violent or sexual nature, but were mostly just explaining his views, even if the language did get vulgar at some points. To make their case, the prosecution would have had to prove that Elliott knew he was harassing the women. Due to the fact that the two women continued to communicate with Elliott, the judge believed there was no way Elliott could have known he was harassing them. The defense also raised the concern that the judge couldn’t understand the circumstance without all the relevant tweets in order to put the comments into context. Knazan agreed with the assessment that the tweets collected by police were insufficient to properly judge the situation.

Following the case, Elliott’s defense attorney, Chris Murphy, told reporters, “You can definitely be convicted of criminal harassment on Twitter. But at the same time the person receiving these tweets has to take it in context.” He went on to say, “As long as you’re not speaking in a threatening manner you’re allowed to express yourself on Twitter. And if a person becomes fearful, that fear will not be reasonable.”

Elliott stands by his actions stating, “Everything I did was within the law. I don’t know if I would change anything.” He added, “I’ve always loved and respected women, but I also love and respect freedom of speech.” He did state that being away from Twitter for a few years as the case made its way through the courts has left him with a renewed appreciation for face to face contact.

Was the judge right or wrong to find Elliott not guilty? Share your thoughts on this groundbreaking case below!

Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.

  • Gordon E Abernathy

    I hope he sues the hell out of these feminists and the prosecutors office and the toronto pd. I hope his lawsuit is the stuff of legends, for a few reasons. 1. He didnt do anything wrong or illegal, so the charges should have been dropped asap,and the prosecutor shouldnt have taken it to trial.

  • Wyatt Hnatiw

    He can’t sue the two women who made the accusations because regardless of how specious the claims were, it was the crown that chose to prosecute. He could in theory go after a prosecutorial misconduct case or something civil against the crown but that’d be some Sisyphean work.

  • Bitterbear

    He won the battle but we can lose the war. Now they know that you don’t need to win a lawsuit in order to ruin a life.

  • hurin

    Maybe not. It has been discovered that some of the tweets the crown used as evidence were from a troll account.

  • Toastrider

    The phrase you’re looking for is ‘The process is the punishment’.

    The idea being you’re not actually trying to -win- the lawsuit. Ideally, you expend as little resources (time and funds) as you can, while forcing your target to defend themselves to prevent a judgement against him. In some cases the whole point is to force them to spend time responding, until the court date arrives — and then you drop the suit.

    It’s a gross abuse of the whole civil legal system, and the only way to stop it is to track people who repeatedly do it so you can get them declared vexatious litigants (at least in the U.S.) That was what happened to Jack Thompson, but it’s hard to do because that sort of label is not the sort of thing judges like to drop lightly.

  • Smoky_the_Bear

    Hopefully this sets a precedent for future cases to be laughed out of the prosecution office and not taken seriously.

  • Bitterbear

    The one to keep an eye on is the ZQ vs Eron Gjoni. That one is freedom of speech vs. the spiteful, vindictive ex-girlfriend.

  • Arbitrary

    “I’ve always loved and respected women…”

    I absolutely hate that he felt the need to add this. It borders on apologeticism. Stand up for yourself against women, for fuck’s sake.