One of my pet issues has been looking at ways to keep illegal content off the internet.
I am concerned with two classes of illegal content: child exploitation and hate. To that end, I have been working through KINSA: the Kids Internet Safety Association and Canadian Jewish Congress to look at ways to make the internet a safer place.
At this point in time, the Canadian internet service providers have taken the position that they will knock illegal content off their servers, if it is hosted in Canada, but they will not block sites that are hosted off-shore. Their view is that users should install blocking software and they are working to enhance user education.
Both suggestions are good but I don’t think they go far enough. I think this is an area that warrants additional government action. After all, when we are concerned about airline safety, we go beyond telling passengers that they should bring a parachute.
British Telecom has been blocking illegal content for more than a year now under their Project Cleanfeed. Despite early criticism of its overtones of censorship, BT’s efforts have received widespread acclaim.
Carriers are not being asked to be censors. Canada already has laws that forbid certain types of content. If the illegal content is in printed form, our customs agents confiscate it at the border. If these existing laws are to have meaning, we should be taking steps to close the digital loophole.
We are hosting a session at The Canadian Telecom Summit to look at these issues. Panel members will include Det/Sgt Paul Gillespie of the Toronto Police Child Expoitation Unit; Bernie Farber, CEO of Canadian Jewish Congress; former Ass’t Crown Attorney David Butt; and, Kirsten Embree. It should be a lively session.