There’s no doubt that social media—and Twitter in particular—has had a major impact on Canadian politics and the ongoing mayoral race in Toronto is no exception.
But now that impact appears to be spreading over into the legal system.
On Friday, in what might be a Canadian first, lawyers at the Toronto firm Shillers LLP served legal notice, the action that starts a lawsuit, on Twitter.
— Shillers LLP (@ShillersLLP) August 29, 2014
While it’s likely that Shillers also served notice by more traditional means, posting the notice on Twitter was rather fitting for the case – given that the alleged libel took place on Twitter.
As issue are three Tweets made on Thursday by Nick Kouvalis, a top advisor to Toronto mayoral race frontrunner John Tory, that mocked Warren Kinsella, a political strategist and commentator whose departure from mayoral candidate Olivia Chow’s campaign team had been announced earlier in the day.
According to the the Notice of Libel, Kouvalis’ Tweets were intended to imply that Kinsella was fired by Chow’s campaign – Kinsella claims the split was mutual – and that he was hurting the campaign and that it was “better off” without him.
Among the those Tweets were links to two music videos – Beyoncé’ “Irreplaceable” and AC/DC’s Thunderstruck – leading to the inclusion of screen shots of YouTube videos linked-to on Twitter in the legal filling.
The suit comes just one day after Kinsella wrote a column in the Toronto Sun title “Shutting down online haters.” His third suggestion in that piece “sue them.”
This isn’t the first time Kinsella has taken that piece of his own advice and he keeps a record of his successes on his webpage with a Top Ten list of apologies he has received.
While the case may be a sign of just how much of a factor social media has become in Canada’s politics and legal system, it’s also a sign of how social media is exposing elements of these systems that were previously behind closed doors.
Kouvalis has not yet responded to the lawsuit – at least on Twitter – and the allegedly-libellous Tweets remain posted. Among the key demands of the suit are that Kouvalis delete the Tweets.
The personalities of senior “war room” advisors like Kinsella and Kouvalis were rarely – if ever – on display in the days before social media.
It’s also a good reminder of how personal politics can be, even in the most professionally-run campaign.