Calgary-Based App Could Face Legal Challenges

The new app Peeple, which was founded and is still based right here in Calgary, is a social media endeavor designed to rate or rank other people across a range of criteria.

While the founder insists that it is meant to make the Internet and mobile space more positive, enabling the sharing of good comments about peers and rankings that improve their esteem and their public profile, many worry that it presents an opportunity for cyber-bullying and negativity.

That latter potential, and the blowback the app makers have received in response to this possibility, have captured international media attention, boosting awareness of the app considerably and giving it a very controversial start.

The potential for negative comments has also caught the attention of a legal expert who warns that the makers of the app might potentially be vulnerable to defamation charges.

Once you become aware (of a defamatory comment) and have control, then you're liable as though you made the defamatory content in the first place, said Emily Laidlaw, assistant professor of law at the University of Calgary. [They're] risking liability and it's a bad idea to do this in the Canadian legal context.”

Defamation works very differently in the United States, where many other popular social media platforms are based; publishers are not necessarily responsible for defamatory content on US-based platforms, but they are in Canada.

Will Calgary soon be the center of a battle between free speech, new technology, and defamation laws? There's no app to tell us that...yet.