Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Blocking content

The news will be breaking shortly, so you might as well read about it here first. Late in the day on Tuesday afternoon, I helped in filing the first application requesting the CRTC to authorize Canadian carriers to block internet content.

Recall that last summer, TELUS got into trouble for blocking access to a website without the permission of the CRTC. The basis is Section 36 of the Telecom Act which states:
[Content of messages]
36. Except where the Commission approves otherwise, a Canadian carrier shall not control the content or influence the meaning or purpose of telecommunications carried by it for the public.
So, Section 36 tells us that we need the Commission to approve any control of the content that carriers handle for the public.

A couple points arise from this sentence. First, it only applies to ISPs that are carriers. This means that ISPs that are resellers, including all of the foreign owned and controlled ISPs, are free to play with the content all they want. Second, the Commission has never before been asked to approve such an application.

There are websites operated by a US-based white supremacist which call for the murder of an Ottawa human rights lawyer who successfully fought to put Tomasz Winnicki, a London, Ontario purveyor of hate, in jail for ignoring a court order to stop posting hate on the internet. In the court's decision, the lawyer's concern for his own well-being is mentioned:
RW testified that he has been personally harassed and threatened by neo-Nazis and that he now lives in hiding and does not dare to reveal his occupation or address for fear of harassment for his family and himself.
Unfortunately, two US-based websites have now called for this man to be murdered and provided his home address. The sites also call for the violent overthrow of the Canadian Government and for the streets to run red with the blood of Jews.

Enough was enough. I have never seen a more compelling case to put before the CRTC. Working together with lawyers from Papazian Heisey Myers and Bernie Farber, CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress who has experience in hate cases, we filed an application with the CRTC on Tuesday, seeking authorization for carriers to block the websites containing the illegal material.

Frankly, if the CRTC denies our request, they are washing their hands of the powers granted to them by Parliament. The CRTC would be saying that it does not want the power granted by Parliament to regulate content on the internet.

If you look at the CRTC stripping CHOI-FM of the renewal of its broadcast license, when someone engages in name calling (and other personal and inappropriate attacks) on a morning radio program, this new case involving calling for murder and publishing an address for the intended victim should provide for an easier CRTC determination.

We think the CRTC will make the right decision. We hope it will act quickly.
The Canadian Press has run a story on this issue on their newswire.

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good luck with your application!

Just read the Canadian Press story - good luck - my fingers are crossed for you and your team!

the crtc should stay away from interefering with the internet. it's unfortunate what happened, but blocking those sites is a stupid idea

A) because you can get around the blocks regardless through technical methods
B) if the crtc goes ahead with it could open the flood gates to more requests

Why not go after the root of the problem and find the people making the threats and charge them for the threats instead of getting on the censorship bus?
Thanks a lot for helping to protect my decentness from such nastiness. I am very happy that someone is looking out for my mental health and open mind, by having my government prevent me from reading something that might compromise me.

Keep up the good work!
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It is only going to make people think "where can I see said blocked content?" Next, others will answer the call and repost it elsewere. Now you have a cat an mouse game on your hands.

If there is someone that is cray enough to actualy carry out a murder based on a website calling for it, the message will find this crazy person, not the other way around.
Net-neutrality or hate?
Nice to see some action in the canadian quarter :)-

Wishin you all the best and we are all here behind you !!
This won't work.

The CRTC aren't technically able to block the content. You can put up temporary measures like the Great Firewall of China and India's ban of Blogger, but these are only stop-gaps and make work projects.

I'm not in any way supporting the hate speech, I'm saying that it isn't technically feasible to block content on the Internet.

DARPA designed it 30 years ago to withstand nuclear attacks. It isn't possible for one government agency to effectively block "hate speech" that is originating from outsite of the country.

You "get this garbage off of the internet" by going after the offender, not by trying to keep people in Canada from viewing it.

This is a huge make work project that has ABSOLUTELY no technical chance of doing anything effective.

As you mention in your post, all anyone has to do to access this content is use a foreign owned and controlled ISP.

Technically, all they would have to do is use a foreign proxy, of which there are numerous free ones available.

ALL THEY HAVE TO DO TO GET PAST THIS IS DO A SEARCH IN GOOGLE AND LOOK AT THE CACHED PAGE. Here is a cached version of a previous post on your blog:,+how+do+we+fund+the+shortfall%3F%22&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=2

The CRTC could ban ISPs from displaying your blog, and anyone with rudimentary technical knowledge (ie: how to click on a link in a Google search result) can still access it.

If they can't find it on Google, they can still find it on the Wayback Internet Archive.

And there is nothing the CRTC can do about it.

Please do something EFFECTIVE and go after the owners/ISPs of the two US based websites. Getting rid of the content at the source is the only means to attack problems like this.

Government censorship of the Internet doesn't work on websites hosted outside of their borders.
Why not block all spam while you're at it. Anyone who works in the IT industry knows that by it's structure doing this effectively will be ineffective/impossible at best and at worst it will set a precedent that all sorts of fringe groups could exploit in the future to invoke blocks on anything they find even mildly offensive. Hell I can get around any block you put on my internet by starting up a vpn or ssh proxy session to a box in another country. If people are making threats then charge them under the normal laws. This isn't an internet issue and you'll never solve it there It's a flesh and blood real world issue and must be addressed there. "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither"
Look for me in the protests that run rampant if this gets put through.
This is one of those free speech tests we keep failing.

We don't deserve an open culture if we keep bringing the Govt. hammers down on our obnoxious idiots.

I also couldn't help but notice that when the radical LEFT said and did nasty things and got a reaction that that reaction was called 'McCarthyism' and is considered Bad.

How come it's good now?
As much as one may want to put a stop to this sort of content on the Internet or otherwise, it probably should be done by shutting up Mr. White via court action (as would be the case, had he uttered a death threat face to face), rather than reducing freedom of speech in general to a meaningless phrase.

Nonetheless, I wish you luck.
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This just won't work and is a terrible idea. If someone really wants to access "illegal" or undesirable content then there i snothing you can do to stop them. These measures won't help at all. I urge you to re-consider. I agree completely with the comments from 'trek'. This won't change anything.
Good luck with application!
p.s. why text so big in comments?
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