CRTC asked to block websites



[UPDATE: The CRTC has denied Warman’s claim. The CRTC documents are available here. ]

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is being asked to authorize ISP’s in Canada to block web sites:

One of two U.S.-based hate websites was taken offline Wednesday as an Ottawa lawyer and a Jewish lobby group asked Canada’s telecommunications regulator to take the unprecedented step of blocking access to the sites from north of the border.

Canadian ISP, Telus, blocked access to a Union related website during a labour dispute in the past without CRTC authorization. But there have been increasing moves to push for a formalized system through which ISP can block websites. Currently the focus is on hate sites and child pornography as is usually the case when arguments are made to introduce national filtering systems.

The actual issue appears to be the posting of death threats against Richard Warman posted on neo-nazi sites (one of which was hosted on Blogspot and has been removed). Mr. Warman should pursue his legal options in this matter but this should not be used as a trojan to introduce blanket filering (which does not remove the death threats or really prevent anyone from getting access to them or facilitate the criminal prosecution of the accused). The case appears to be more about “precedence” than it is about the death threats against Warman and I’m particularly troubled by this quote from Warman:

Internet providers that don’t block the sites may make themselves legally liable if a user acts on what they read online, Warman suggested.

Making ISP’s liable for content is not the right thing to do, not for copyright or hate speech. Giving ISP’s permission to voluntarily block web sites is also dangerous. As has been shown with copyright, ISP are not equipped or qualified to make judgments on content and will always default to the lowest common denominator which has serious repercussion on freedom of speech and expression.

There’s a great discussion on this at http://www.digital-copyright.ca/.

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