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!