Today's instalment (bold in original; one typo fixed): Canadian government plans to outlaw internet anonymity.
Yesterday we examined how the Canadian government is planning to effectively outlaw internet linking by making Canadians permanently legally responsible for the content of any webpage they link to using the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act. Today we will look at how the same Act will outlaw internet anonymity.Clause 11: The existing provisions of the Code regarding the offences of sending a message in a false name and sending false information, indecent remarks or “harassing” messages (the French term “harassants” currently used in subsection 372(3) of the Code is replaced by “harcelants” in the bill) refer to certain communication technologies used to commit those offences, such as telegram, radio and telephone. Clause 11 of the bill amends those offences by removing the references to those specific communication technologies and, for some of those offences, substituting a reference to any means of telecommunication. As a result, it will be possible to lay charges in respect of those offences regardless of the transmission method or technology used.
This is an exact duplicate of the process that brought thought crimes legislation, Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, to the internet and enabled the Canadian Human Rights Commission to engage in acts that were finally ruled to be unconstitutional by the very Canadian Human Rights Tribunals that rubber stamped convictions in 100% of the cases brought before it. Only this time it is to be expanded upon and enshrined in the Criminal Code of Canada. If this Bill is passed the Canadian government can throw out the reviled Section 13 of the CHRA, they won't need it anymore because they will have something even worse to use against us.
Look very carefully at the wording of Clause 11 above. The key word is “and” which follows the words in bold text (text not bold in original document). It would be bad enough if the new law proposed making it an additional offense to use a false name (an internet alias) “while” “sending false information, indecent remarks or “harassing” messages”, like using a firearm in the commission of a robbery, but this wording makes “sending a message using a false name” a stand alone crime. Think long and hard about the implications and dangers of this part of this proposed bill.
Where are internet aliases most commonly used by Canadians today? They are almost universally used in internet forums, bloggers' comments sections, and comment sections of other websites. This law will make using an alias a crime. It is not likely they will try to prosecute everyone using an alias online but it will give the government the means to identify and criminalize anyone who writes anything the government disapproves of. Imagine an internet where Canadians were forbidden by law to speak anonymously.
Think it would never happen in Canada? Never forget what happened with the CHRC and never give those who enabled that disaster the means to do it again.
Yesterday, Fournier pointed out the dangers of linking contained in the same bill. He quotes Clause 5.
Clause 5 of the bill provides that the offences of public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred may be committed by any means of communication and include making hate material available, by creating a hyperlink that directs web surfers to a website where hate material is posted...
And goes on to explain.
Hyperlinks are at the very core of the internet, they are what enables every internet user to view any available page on the internet and direct others to view pages. This bill will put the control of all hyperlinks into the hands of government bureaucrats and put all Canadian internet users in legal jeopardy.
This clause essentially makes any Canadian posting a link on the internet legally responsible for the content of any web page linked to even though the person posting the link has no control over the content of that page. If the person who does control the page you've linked to changes the pages content you are still legally responsible because you posted a link.
This will make it unsafe for any Canadian to post a link to any page on the internet that he does not control.
This bill will also make it impossible for any Canadian to operate a forum or a blog that allows for public comments. Even if a blogger vets every posted link on his blog with a bevy of lawyers at his side he still will be held legally liable if the content of the outside web pages changes. The only way to safely operate a blog will be to disallow links to other sites and pages.
Beyond the dangers of this bill as it is supposed to function lies the massive potential for abuse by government agents and private individuals. A person who dislikes you for political, competitive or personal reasons could easily set you up with legal problems. Using readily available proxy servers and disposable emails anyone could set up a simple webpage outside of Canada with a theme of “I hate [enter favoured group here] and then post a link to it on your forum or blog. A screen shot of both the created page and the hyperlink on your page is all the evidence needed to show the new law has been violated.
I am no kinda expert on human rights tribunals/commissions (paging Dr. Dawg), but I do know that the speechies loathe them. (And today, we find out that Ontario Top Con Man, Tim Hudak, has backed off from his promise to axe the tribunal here. Building a 'big tent' party ain't so easy, is it, Timmie?)
But if Fournier's reading is correct -- if a little paranoid -- then blogs like DJ! are in beeeg trouble. Not to mention Facebook pages, Tweets, and whatever new fangled toys the Intertoobz geniuses come up with.
Given that we are facing four or five years of authoritarian, liberal-loathing Harperism, shouldn't we progressives be a tad worried?
And, for that matter, shouldn't the telcos and ISPs be howling at the expense of such monitoring?
It seems to me that this could be a great issue for the Fucking Useless Opposition® and a way to make some new and old Con MPs veeeery uncomfortable under a deluge of outraged letters, emails, tweets, and phone calls.
But, as Fournier points out, we'd better act quickly. SHithead vows to pass his omnibus Stoopid on Crime bill within 100 days.
Oh-oh. Brian Lilley is on it. I like his last paragraph.
The Harper Conservatives won a majority Monday, they can pass this bill without relying on any other party for support. But they still need your support and your donations and the Canadian public should tell them they will get neither if they put forward bills like this that attack liberty.
UPDATE: HOLY CRAP! Link to Michael Geist from reader Mark Francis.
. . . more important than process is the substance of the proposals that have the potential to fundamentally reshape the Internet in Canada. The bills contain a three-pronged approach focused on information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers.