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.

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