Legal Briefs: How Do Administrative & Regulatory Law Respond to Cyberviolence?
A number of privacy commissioners in Canada have become active on the issue of cyberbullying and online reputational harms, providing educational and outreach materials for members of the public. At the federal level, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has dealt with complaints related to impersonation and non-consensual distribution of intimate images.
Under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the OPC oversees private sector organizations’ compliance with rules that generally prohibit them from collecting, using, or disclosing personal information without consent, unless an exception to those restrictions applies.PIPEDA also gives individuals a right to access and ask for corrections to personal information that an organization has collected about them, and to file a complaint with the OPC if they believe the organization is not abiding by its responsibilities under the Act. However, these OPC powers are limited to organizations engaged in commercial activity, and to situations where there is a “real and substantial” connection to Canada, which may not always be the case if the organization is outside of Canada. If the OPC has jurisdiction, they can request that the organization (such as a social media provider like Facebook) remove content, although it may also have been posted or re-posted in other places online.
Specialized cyberbullying investigatory/support units
Under the Intimate Image Protection Act, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) has been designated as an agency to assist Manitobans victimized by non-consensual distribution of intimate images. C3P may get involved with respect to removing and deleting images, contacting individuals who distributed an intimate image (or their parents), and engaging the police if appropriate. C3P is authorized to act both with respect to actual and threatened distributions of images where the victim is identifiable and nude, or engaged in sexual activity and had a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the image was created. The agency can also address situations where others receive and distribute such images without consent.
In 2013, Nova Scotia created its CyberSCAN Investigation Unit, in tandem with the Cyber-safety Act that, as noted above, was eventually struck down as unconstitutional. Originally, the Unit investigated complaints of cyberbullying as defined under the Act, including complaints of harassment or threats. Following the demise of the Act, the Unit now focuses on education and public awareness, but will continue to provide advice and “redirect […] cases to the appropriate authority or agency for help.” The Unit will immediately refer all cases involving criminal behaviour to the police, although its website cautions that “[p]olice will not deal with cyberbullying unless it has a criminal element.”
 See e.g. Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia & Representative for Children and Youth, Cyberbullying: Empowering children and youth to be safe online and responsible digital citizens (November 2015), online: <https://www.oipc.bc.ca/special-reports/1882>.
 Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, “Online Reputation: What are they saying about me?”, Discussion Paper (January 2016), online: <https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/research-recherche/2016/or_201601_e.asp#heading-0-0-6> [OPC]. Similar provisions in provincial and territorial privacy legislation may also empower information and privacy commissioners to intervene in similar ways within their own jurisdictions.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, SC 2000, c 5 [PIPEDA].
 OPC, supra note 256 at 7.
Ibid at 6.
Intimate Image Protection Act, supra note 213, ss 3-4.
Ibid, ss 3-4; Manitoba, “Province Announces New Law in Force Helps Victims of Revenge Porn, Unwanted Distribution of Sexual Pictures” (18 January 2016), online: <news.gov.mb.ca/news/index.html?item=37330> [Manitoba, “New Law”].
Ibid to Manitoba, “New Law”.
Cyber-safety Act, supra note 133.
 Nova Scotia, CyberSCAN, online: <http://cyberscan.novascotia.ca>.