Free expression, not freedom from consequences

Internet stalkers, trolls and other online miscreants, beware: The veil of anonymity presented by keyboards and computer screens offers no legal protection whatsoever for misbehavior in the Cayman Islands.

Under our laws, what a person says or does online, or via text message, can basically be considered in the same light as what one says or does in the public square in broad daylight. Indeed, many times the most salient practical difference is that the electronic records of misdeeds persist more indelibly than typical physical evidence, and are more conclusive than verbal witness testimony.

As we report in today’s Compass, a Caymanian man discovered the punitive powers under our Information and Communications Authority Technology the hard way, as he was sentenced to 13 months in prison for unleashing upon an ex-girlfriend an avalanche of vile and threatening text messages.

For our readers’ edification, here’s the relevant section of the ICTA Law: “A person who knowingly uses an ICT network or ICT service to defraud, abuse, annoy, threaten or harass any other person is guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of ten thousand dollars and to imprisonment for one year, or, on conviction on indictment, to a fine of twenty thousand dollars and to imprisonment for two years.”

But the ICTA Law isn’t the only legal statute demarcating the boundaries of free speech in our jurisdiction. Other offenses, such as libel and defamation, apply equally to electronic communications as well as print or broadcast, depending on what the particular case may be.

Some of our readers on the website send us occasional messages, inquiring (sometimes politely, sometimes not) why a particular comment of theirs wasn’t published. Sometimes they accuse us of restricting their freedom of speech. Well, the truth is, in many such instances, we were doing that person a favor — and protecting ourselves in the process — by not publishing that comment because we deemed it to be patently untrue, factually unsubstantiated, accusatory or downright hurtful … and, thus, potentially legally actionable.

We take similar steps to monitor and moderate comments on the Compass’s Facebook feed. Apart from concerns over libel and defamation, we want the Compass, in print and online, to be a public forum for positive and constructive discussion — a means by which people can become better informed, not insulted.

In furtherance of this aspect of our company’s mission, we have included in today’s newspaper a special 16-page report on the ongoing debate over whether or not Cayman should pursue a cruise berthing project in George Town harbor. Because of the importance of the issue, and the magnitude of the proposal on the table, the conversation about cruise berthing has become quite heated, with the two most vocal groups being construed as the “environmentalists” against the dock, versus the “merchants” who are for it. We have given each of those sides the opportunity to explain their positions, in their own words, but the bulk of this special section has been constructed by our team of reporters and editors, under the mandate of being even-handed and utterly objective.

We believe the special report, in sum, will be — not the final word on the cruise dock — but certainly the most definitive to date.

We hope our readers appreciate and enjoy the fruits of our journalistic labors. We invite you to submit your own thoughts, comments and opinions to us, on the cruise dock or any other topic relevant to Cayman, either by writing directly to the Editor, posting on our website or picking up the telephone and giving us a call. We’re always glad to hear from you.

To view the full special report from the Cayman Compass on the cruise dock debate, visit the Compass Data Desk.


  1. Again the Cayman Compass is being a good source of advice and service of news to the people of Cayman Islands. To all you fast fingers on the key pad, read this Compass editorial "good" before you touch that key pad to say what you think, because it can come back and bite you where it really hurts.

  2. I must admit I haven’t read the ICTA law, but it would strike me as odd that the law says you can be guilty…if you ”annoy” someone by your postings. If I were ”annoyed” by this article would that make the Compass in danger of being convicted of an offense? Surely ”annoy” isn’t in the same category as ”defraud, threaten or harass”? BTW I’m not annoyed!