Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coming soon to an internet near you

"Will anonymity and hyperlinks be illegal in Canada?" Good question! Bill C-51, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act has some issues, to say the least. Namely, these ones that are highlighted by a Maclean's blogger this afternoon:
From the Library of Parliament’s legislative summary:
Clause 5 of the bill provides that the offences of public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred may be committed… by creating a hyperlink that directs web surfers to a website where hate material is posted.
That’s just stunningly ignorant. Let’s put aside the ridiculous leap of reason that equates linking to something with saying something, and instead direct our attention to the sheer stupidity of this law on technological grounds. Namely, we usually do not have control of the things we link to. They can change. So if something I link to later becomes “hate material” then I will suddenly be guilty of a hate crime. Any sound legal advice in a country where such a law exists would be to stop using hyperlinks entirely, as they present too great a liability. And that would sort of kind of make the Internet itself illegal.
Here’s the Library of Parliament explaining a change from an earlier version of the bill:
…regarding the offences of sending a message in a false name (via) 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.
Wow. No “false names” on the Internet (or through telegrams, which bothers me less). Real names only kids—that’ll thwart the perverts!
During the election, Harper pledged an omnibus crime bill which will be passed within 100 days of the beginning of the new parliamentary session. That omnibus bill will include the lawful access legislation with its significant privacy breaching aspects and potential for abuse. See this post which highlights some of the worst aspects of that proposed legislation. The above problematic provisions on hyperlinking and false names also form part of the new lawful access legislation.

Will a majority Harper government listen to complaints about such obvious problems as those set out above? Will they listen to the objections of federal and provincial privacy commissioners from across the country who question the merits of this legislation? Now that they have a majority mandate, having made an explicit promise to enact this legislation within 100 days? There is a lot of work that should be done on this lawful access legislation. We're about to see how legitimate criticisms will be handled by the new majority folks.