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Free speech vs privacy

By Steven | June 12, 2011

A New Mexico man puts up a billboard of himself holding the outline of a baby, saying:

This Would Have Been a Picture Of My 2-Month Old Baby If The Mother Had Decided To NOT KILL Our Child!

His ex-partner (who says she had a miscarriage not an abortion) sues for harrassment and invasion of privacy.

A London plummer outraged about his wife’s affair with her boss, the director of one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, runs a public campaign, include blogging and twittering, to allege that the boss conducted the affair on company time is up on charges of harrassment.

Are these exercises in free speech? Are they, in fact, protest speech? Are they harrassment? Invasions of privacy? All of the above? Does it make any difference whether the facts are right or wrong?

Topics: Harassment Act, Injunctions, Internet issues, Privacy tort, Protest speech | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “Free speech vs privacy”

  1. ross Says:
    June 16th, 2011 at 1:48 pm


    They are certainly complex cases and I believe it makes a lot of difference whether the facts are right or wrong. I imagine that defences against defamation have succeeded on the basis of truth and honest opinion. Harassment is a curly one. Each country may have a slightly different definition of what constitutes harassment. Besides, an individual may feel harassed but is it a breach of the law?

  2. Steven Says:
    June 16th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I wasn’t really asking for anyone’s feelings in the matter, or discussing potential defamation, which of course can turn on truth and falsity. The issue is whether a privacy action can be based on facts that are – or are partly – wrong. The case law is rather mixed but some cases (like P v D in NZ) suggest that truth and falsity is irrelevant to a privacy claim. I think that’s questionable.

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