Trial by Twitter is not Due Process

Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (ONHRC) conducted a trial by twitter. A restaurant had allegedly posted, on twitter, an ad for a female restaurant worker. To be clear: one is not allowed to do that in Ontario and job ads must be gender neutral.

The ONHRC in its’ twitter feed named the restaurant in a tweet stating that the ad was not allowed. When I saw this tweet, I took issue with the lack of due process and tweeted about it both to the ONHRC and the Commissioner of the ONHRC. The Commissioner’s response to me was that their job is to educate and the post was not “shocking” as I had described it.

I attempted to make my point back, but 140 characters is not a lot for anyone, let alone a lawyer, to express a cohesive thought, so this week’s Blog is my position on the ONHRC’s Tweet and why I take issue with it.

Anyone can set up a twitter account. There is no mandatory verification process to ensure that a twitter account on behalf of a business is actually run by the business. A competitor could set up a twitter account or a disgruntled employee could set up an account.

As such, when the ONHRC decided to “out” the restaurant on twitter, what it did was give bad press to a restaurant without confirming that the actual restaurant had violated the Ontario Human Rights Code. This likely didn’t have a massive impact on the restaurant’s business, but that is irrelevant: it could have.

This is why we have an actual human right’s complaint process before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal: spoiler alert, it doesn’t involve trial by Twitter.

While the Role of the ONHRC includes educating the public about Human Rights, it does not include presuming that a tweet is from the organization it claims to be from and then attacking that organization on twitter.

Inga B. Andriessen JD