Tag Archive for: Internet

Conflict of Laws of Freedom of Speech on Elon Musk’s Twitter

Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter has been a divisive event. Commenting on the response on Twitter and elsewhere, Musk tweeted:

The extreme antibody reaction from those who fear free speech says it all

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By “free speech”, I simply mean that which matches the law.

I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law.

If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.

Therefore, going beyond the law is contrary to the will of the people.

Ralf Michaels quote-tweeted perceptively: ‘But which law?’

Twitter and the conflict of laws

By their very nature, digital platforms like Twitter present a variety of conflict of laws issues.

Worldwide Removal Order Upheld Against Google

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld, by a 7-2 decision, an injunction issued by lower courts in British Columbia requiring Google, a non-party to the litigation, to globally remove or “de-index” the websites of the defendant so that they do not appear in any search results.  This is the first such decision by Canada’s highest court.

In Google Inc. v Equustek Solutions Inc., 2017 SCC 34 (available here) Equustek sued Datalink for various intellectual property violations relating to the manufacture and sale of a networking device.  Interlocutory orders were made against Datalink but it did not comply and it cut any connections it had to British Columbia (para 7).  It continued its conduct, operating from an unknown location and selling its device over the internet.  After some cooperative efforts with Google (de-indexing specific web pages but not Datalink’s entire websites) were unsuccessful to stop potential customers from finding Datalink’s device, Equustek sought an interlocutory injunction stopping Google from including any parts of Datalink websites in its search results worldwide.  Google acknowledged that it could do this relatively easily (paras 43 and 50) but it resisted the injunction.

The issue of the British Columbia court’s in personam or territorial jurisdiction over Google featured prominently in the lower court decisions, especially that of Justice Fenlon for the British Columbia Supreme Court (available here).  This is an interesting issue in its own right, considering the extent to which a corporation can be present or carry on business in a province in a solely virtual (through the internet) manner (rather than having any physical presence).  There is considerable American law on this issue, including the much-discussed decision in Zippo Manufacturing v Zippo Dot Com Inc., 952 F Supp 119 (WD Pa 1997).  In the Supreme Court of Canada, Google barely raised the question of jurisdiction, leading the court to state that it had not challenged the lower courts’ findings of in personam and territorial jurisdiction (para 37).  So more on that issue will have to wait for another case.