January 23, 2016

#FreedomOfTweets: Here's why the judge found Gregory Alan Elliott not guilty

Irene OgrizekRebel Blogger

As TheRebel.media's Lauren Southern has reported, the final judgement in the Twitter harassment trial has been handed down in Toronto; it upheld Canadians’ rights to free speech.

At legal issue was the definition of criminal harassment, the charge leveled against graphic artist Gregory Alan Elliott by two women’s rights activists, Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly.

In that framework were the specific definitions of Actus Reus—culpable behavior and consequences, and Mens Rea—the so-called "mental element" of the charge.

Judge Brent Knazan’s ruling took over three hours to read and included a long explication of how communication works within Twitter. The novelty of the social media site, it seems, called for an inventive response.

In 2012, Guthrie and Reilly engaged in a Twitter exchange with Elliott, one that began innocently enough when Guthrie sounded out Elliot on the possibility of creating a poster for #WoTopoli, a hashtag abbreviation for "Women in Toronto politics."

The in-person meeting didn’t go well, at least for Guthrie, and there is some evidence pointing to Elliott’s mild romantic interest in her. However, nothing came of it and for many months online relations between the two were cordial.

Things "took a bad turn," according to Guthrie, when Elliot defended a young Sault Ste. Marie man she had called out for having created a face-punch game aimed at Anita Sarkeesian. (Sarkeesian is the controversial editor of FeministFrequency.com and one of the major players in #GamerGate.)

Such face-punch games are quite prevalent online; they are simple to make and target many celebrities. However, this fact was lost in the outrage over the insult to Sarkeesian.

Game creator Ben Spurr was also on Twitter when Guthrie unleashed the ire of her followers on him, creating a torrent that had real-world consequences: Twitterers in Sault Ste Marie and elsewhere were advised against hiring the young man.

What gave Guthrie’s action its Goliath quality was the differential between Spurr’s mere 11 followers and her 8,000.
Elliott, the father of four sons, became concerned about this torrent against Spurr, and suggested that Spurr might even be pushed to suicide.

Thus began a downward slide in communications between Elliott and Guthrie (and Guthrie’s friends.)

A particularly unpleasant exchange led both Guthrie and Reilly to block Elliott. However, by using the same Twitter hashtags, the three continued to take part in many similar online conversations. Guthrie felt this was evidence of Elliott’s obsession with her, although he tweeted nothing that could be construed as inappropriate or threatening.

However, a tipping point came when Elliott pinpointed Guthrie’s location one evening, saying there would be, "A whole lot of ugly at the Cadillac Lounge tonight." It was after this tweet, Guthrie alleges, that she began to fear for her safety.

Judge Knazan’s lengthy judgement delves deeply into the details and sequencing of Elliott’s interactions, not only with Guthrie, but with several of her friends who used Twitter to challenge him on his politics.

Reading through these tweets, it becomes clear that Elliott’s perception of being ganged up on by the group is accurate. Although he continued to use the same hashtags that Guthrie and her friends did, he also, spontaneously and legitimately, discussed the political issues these friends raised.

Specifically, Elliott’s pattern of responding suggests he was focused on these issues, not on Guthrie. It also suggests that Guthrie’s hostility formed the impetus for her friends' challenges in the first place.

That is, Guthrie did seem to be responsible for what the defense referred to as “taunting,” although the Crown asserted the women were merely defending themselves. However, that assertion was called into question by the sequencing laid out by Knazan.

What became very clear is that if Elliott was obsessed with Guthrie, she was equally, if not more, obsessed with him.

How else to interpret her insistent and prolonged tweeting about the man?

Indeed, it was exactly Guthrie’s ongoing participation in the discussions—both before and after she blocked Elliott—that suggested her feeling of being harassed was never explicitly communicated to Elliott. That is, Elliott did not "know" he was harassing Guthrie (Mens Rea) and so he was not legally culpable (Actus Reus).

Moreover, the fact that Guthrie continued to tweet to and about Elliott, even after blocking him, meant her tweets sent "a mixed message." (The judge decided that using the same hashtag does not a harasser make, thankfully.)

However, the Crown had also asserted that the mere quantity of Elliott’s tweets posed a threat. In response to this, Knazan writes:

His volume of tweets harassed her because of her view that she could control people’s non-threatening, non-sexual use of her handle and hashtags that she used beyond not reading their tweets and taking the ineffectual step of blocking.

He cannot be imputed with knowledge that Ms. Guthrie was harassed by his tweeting. Mr. Elliott was not responsible for that view, which is at least arguably incompatible with Twitter.

It’s also worth nothing that although Knazan was critical of some of the words Elliot chose, he also said that Elliot often tweeted "to explain himself" and that "each aspect of his tweeting is legitimate."

Christie Blatchford of the National Post, who sat through much of the trial, declared Knazan’s judgement sound. I agree, and if Knazan’s own choice of words is anything to go by, it’s clear he felt sympathy for Guthrie—he frequently acknowledged her honesty—but sided with Elliott and his right to speak freely, especially on a forum as wide open as Twitter.

The devil in the details is that Elliott’s manner only became insulting after a prolonged and comprehensive provocation, one that Guthrie participated in fully if not always directly.

The overall sense of Knazan’s judgement is that while Elliott’s behavior was not wise, it was certainly understandable.
Canada’s liberal media has already cherry-picked Knazan’s words, with the CBC proclaiming, "There is no doubt that Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly were harassed by Gregory Alan Elliott..."

Actually, there’s a lot of doubt, if Knazan’s judgement is read in its entirety.

But it seems our nation’s broadcaster isn’t very interested in writing about or upholding our rights to free speech. After a recent announcement that all articles concerning aboriginals will go comment-less, the CBC’s editors seem more interested in babysitting those they consider fragile than fulfilling their mandate to keep Canadians informed.

It’s social engineering of precisely the sort Guthrie and her friends were trying to legitimize, using Canada's harassment laws to do so.

Luckily for Canadians, Judge Knazan, in his 85-page verdict, had the wisdom to say no.


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commented 2016-01-27 08:01:36 -0500
Honestly, as much as this charge makes an ass of the law, greg really needs to take ownership of his behavior leading up to this.
1. He’s presumably divorced with 4 children behind him, and was lonely and looking for love when he met Guthrie. Nothing wrong with that in itself. BUT! everyone has to own their loneliness, which has its roots in one’s belief system and values. And it is foolish to seek a salve for naive values by immersing oneself into ‘another’ relationship. Guthrie in my books would have displayed greater wisdom to get his values straightened out post divorce with some serious personal development, rather than haphazardly hitting on any female that entered his life, especially via work.

2. Greg chose to get romantic with Guthrie, when she was actually a business client. As I said above, this is emotionally irresponsible and reckless behavior. News Flash : Women don’t have the meaning of life men! If you are lonely, develop your life meaning and values. Don’t go looking for a surrogate mother figure. It never ends well.

3. Greg seriously chose the wrong woman to hit on. He knew she was a committed feminist. Is it only me that sees that as sheer madness? Why on earth would a man hit on someone who has issues with men.

4. Greg chose to engage Guthrie’s gang. Why the hell would you do that? They are dyed in the wool feminists. How naive is Greg! How lonely is he? Greg’s experience should be a warning for all men, that the old addage is very true ’The Devil provides work for idle hands". And arguing with people on the internet is an idle thing.

That’s my take. Greg is guilty of not maturing and developing his ability to read people and developing emotional maturity.
And the internet encourages the plight he found himself in.

Yeah sure, Guthrie and her mates are grubs for pursuing this case via the law; and the law is an ass for taking them seriously.
However, lets cut back to the difference between men and women. A major difference is men take responsibility for their behavior and personal growth and emotions. Women don’t. They surrender control for their emotional health and wellbeing to others, by taking too seriously what others say. Rather then developign a thick skin, they prefer to play the fragile flower card, then run off to the law or media to whine about being offended or frightened.
The feminism that encourages this and what Guthrie did, will never make women more equal to men. It guarantees that women will always be emotionally more fragile and less resilient and more fearful of the world. Women will never be able to interact with teh world and achieve as much as men, while they play the easily offended and fragile card.

I am pleased Greg got off, as it was a ridiculous charge. I hope he now begins to examine life meaning more deeply than he ever has. As for Guthrie et al, I get the impression they live breathe and sleep in a vat of spite and vindictiveness. I’ve met their type before time and again. Life has a way of dealing with them, all in good time. And lots of cats don’t help their sort.
commented 2016-01-25 20:13:27 -0500
commented 2016-01-25 20:12:56 -0500
commented 2016-01-25 01:26:05 -0500
The progressives must be crying, free speech is alien to them.
commented 2016-01-24 13:42:50 -0500
Finally. Some good news!
commented 2016-01-24 13:10:36 -0500
The proper outcome. Disgusting how this nonsense was permitted to drag on for three years. Because of these two selfish women rejecting responsibility for their own run away emotions an innocent man’s reputation and livelihood has been severely damaged. Leave it to the CBC to continue condemning this man even after he’s found innocent.
commented 2016-01-23 22:29:16 -0500
so freedom of speech @ what cost ? so can he counter sue for defamation of character ?