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The Great Firewall of Canada 399

engtech writes "Canadian carriers Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, MTS Allstream, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TELUS, and Videotron have all opted in to a blacklist, dubbed Project Cleanfeed Canada, provided by, the Canadian tip-line against child exploitation. The idea of having a national blacklist sends shivers down my spine. I'm a pessimist, I believe that any form of censorship will eventually be abused despite it's good intentions." Besides engtech's post on the subject, Dr. Michael Geist has some considered comments about this issue. From that post: "Critics are quick to draw parallels to Internet censorship in countries such as China. However, those countries involve state-based content blocking, with no transparency or legal recourse. In fact, several democracies — most notably Australia — have established limited blocking rules, while British Telecom, the UK's largest ISP, voluntarily blocks child pornography as part of its CleanFeed program. Even with various legal safeguards, many Canadians would undoubtedly find the blocking of any content distasteful. Yet to do nothing is to leave in place an equally unpalatable outcome that silences those would speak out against unlawful hate speech for fear of personal harm."
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The Great Firewall of Canada

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  • by dsanfte ( 443781 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @01:46AM (#16970902) Journal
    The idea of having a national blacklist sends shivers down my spine. I'm a pessimist, I believe that any form of censorship will eventually be abused despite it's good intentions.

    I'm sure the outrage has you foaming at the mouth, and is palpably dripping from your chin as we speak. But hold your horses.

    We are not talking about silencing political speech here. Canada is not China, period. We have had laws against hate crimes and child porn for quite awhile now, and there are specific exceptions allowed in our constitution such that there can be no hiding behind the banner of free speech for these things. They are, unequivocably, criminal acts.

    If any sites of note are wrongly blocked, you will hear about it very quickly. Again, we are not China, and news travels fast. The potential for abuse here is small.
  • Slippery slope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @01:48AM (#16970912) Journal
    I remember when the Telus (which is both an ISP and a telco) strike was on, a big issue was raised because they blocked the webpages of their workers' union from those using their internet services. I'm not sure if Canada has the same common-carrier laws as the US, but it seems to me that with or without them, these steps towards having a third party able to decide what is "acceptable" speech or not is a dangerous one.

    Apparent age of females, intent of speech or hatred therein, and many other things are open to wide interpretation. So who gets to decide what is standard vs hate speech, what is pornographic, what girls/boys appear underage? The same companies that block a disagreeable union webpage... that isn't a good sign to me.
  • Re:Um, come again? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mks113 ( 208282 ) <[mks] [at] []> on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:00AM (#16970982) Homepage Journal
    I find it pretty hard to get worked up about. It doesn't sound like it is one person in a basement deciding what Canadians can and can't look at, but rather an attempt to keep world-wide recognized child exploitation off the net.

    The submitters reaction sounds very American. We Canadians don't tend to get so worked up about individual freedoms when the common good is at stake.

    I run a filter at the school I work at. I can understand the need to block content for the kids who are our responsibility. Legal issues fall under the government. Why not allow them to block obviously illegal material?
  • Hate Speech? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:01AM (#16970984)
    What the hell is this "Hate Speech" thing? In a free country, you should be allowed to say whatever the hell you wish besides inciting a riot or yelling fire in a crowded theater, or something like "I will murder so-and-so." Even for the last example, they should not be prosecuted for "Illegal Speech", but for planning a murder.

    It is ridiculous, immature and naïve to think that someone could actually be HARMED by ideas or words. Has no one else ever been taught that Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me ?

    Face it, outlawing "Hate Speech" is pretty much enacting Thought-Crime legislation. If you disagree with someone's obviously wrong ideas, such as something as senseless as racism, combat it with logic, common sense and better ideas. Don't make thinking or saying certain things illegal.

    And even if it was possible to come up with a defense of anti-Hate Speech laws, the boundaries between what is and isn't hateful is arbitrary and would inevitably be abused.
  • Just in case anyone thought that this issue would remain just one of child pornography, it's worth reading the second linked article, which reveals that much of the current rulemaking was sparked by Ottawa's Richard Warman [], a sort of Canadian answer to Jack Thompson, whose pro-censorship stance is centered mostly around "hate speech." His original petition to the CHRC was for censorship of U.S.-based sites that apparently threatened him, under the argument that by threatening someone in Canada, they came under the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts (think about that for a moment, particularly about how the U.S. could use it to grab 'jurisdiction,' and tell me that it's not a really dangerous idea).

    The excuse for national censorship systems is undoubtedly going to be child porn, but it's absolutely naive to think that it won't be extended to other things. It's going to go from child porn, to "hate speech," to gambling and financial transactions ('when you gamble, you're financing terrorism!'), to downloading and copyright infringement. When you look at the motives of the people driving these programs, they are not going to be satisfied simply with ineffectually blocking some porn.
  • by ConfusedSelfHating ( 1000521 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:10AM (#16971052)

    I don't think it's such a big deal if sites with child porn are censored. I don't think that it is a big deal if the sites are nearly child porn. Ok, you can't masturbate to the images of adult women who are dressed up to look like children. Big loss.

    I am much more concerned about who gets to decide what "hate speech" is. This is pre-emptive screening, before you get to a court battle. Who gets to decide what sites are hateful? Are activist groups able to get their people into the committees? What about sites that are critical of illegal immigration? Websites that claim to cure homosexuality? What about those critical of Islamic extremism? Israel? Scientology? What about a site that condemns the Catholic Church for being soft on priest pedophiles?

    The evolution of society depends on ideas that are initially unpopular. Freedom is the ability to act without the permission of others. A society needs to show that your activities harm others before they should ban it. Oppression comes from the banning of political free speech, not from allowing it.

    If a hateful person harms an innocent person, that criminal should be charged with a criminal offence regardless of their political ideology. If you are attempting to sow fear throughout a community, you should be charged with a terrorism offence. If a member of the Klu Klux Klan burns a cross on a black family's lawn, it's the same thing as someone calling in a bomb threat. I believe in the death penalty and I have no problem with the execution of neo-Nazis for killing blacks, Jews, etc.. I just don't believe they should be punished for what they believe.

  • by e9th ( 652576 ) <e9th@tupodex.EULERcom minus math_god> on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:14AM (#16971068)
    If society at large, not just the govt. or a powerful few, finds someone's speech to be hateful, it shouldn't be necessary to block it. Society will take care of it without "official" help.

    Just ask Mel Gibson or Michael Richards.

  • Re:Chilling effect (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cloricus ( 691063 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:20AM (#16971098)
    Which is painful because the only people who will challenge this will be legitimate users...
    As any SysAdmin knows firewalls are a waste of time against those inside the system that are desperate to move data. Even those not smart enough to break through will just use sneakernet and unless you want to lock down every pc in the country this isn't going to be stopped.
    Some one should do some thing about outright wastes of money like this even above the out cries that 1984 is here.
  • by Sinbios ( 852437 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:24AM (#16971118) Homepage
    How are you going to review the list if you can't VIEW the sites ON the list? If it's just government officials/telco assigned people doing the reviewing, what good is it?
  • by Man in Spandex ( 775950 ) <prsn,kev&gmail,com> on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:28AM (#16971132)
    When will they understand that just because you blacklist a website doesn't mean it fixes the problem. It's still there! Viewable by millions of other people. And what do they mean by hate speech? Isn't this fucking land where I'm allowed to say fuck you politicians and know that I won't have two men dressed in black with an ear-piece asking me to follow them?

    Maybe I should build a giant reinforced concrete fence/wall because my neighbor 2 blocks away engages in gay butt sex and that may offend the squirrels in my backyard.

    The slippery slope will happen, Murphy's Law will strike.
  • A slippery cliff (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JymmyZ ( 655273 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:31AM (#16971150)
    "Won't somebody think of the children!?!" It's of course a noble goal, but as a Canadian I've always taken a little pride in the fairly open and uncensored access to the world we seem to get(of course I don't know if this is the case since I don't know how much more or less the rest of the world gets) and to see any sort of infringement on this irks me. There's also the issue of what counts as child-porn; I understand we've categorized []Lolicon as being under this category. I didn't even know about the existence of Lolicon until last week but they could throw all sorts of silly things under that blanket. And of course they can use this as precedent to blacklist other objectionable subjects to those in power, a very slippery cliff indeed.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:37AM (#16971178) Homepage Journal
    Well, this whole issue got started because of a one guy's campaign against white supremacist groups and "hate speech," so I don't think it's much of a stretch to assume that these sorts of laws are going to be used against more than pornography pretty quickly.

    When Richard Warman asked the CRTC to order Canadian ISPs to block certain U.S. sites that allegedly threatened him, one of the reasons they refused was because of the "unprecedented nature of the relief sought in the Application."

    If such blocking was more common, as it would if it was used daily against other sites, then the 'unprecedented action' defense wouldn't exist. Judges are unlikely to create new blocking systems where none exist already, but adding a site to an already extant one is a far lower standard.

    It's naive in the extreme to simply assume that systems like this, regardless of the reasons for their creation initially, won't be extended to other ends. When you give someone a hammer, don't be surprised if they start looking for something to pound with it.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:43AM (#16971200) Homepage Journal
    Trust us, comrade! There is nothing to see on any of the blocked sites. You don't want to go around asking questions like that; someone might think you're a pedophile or something, and we wouldn't want that, now would we?

    Go back and have yourself a nice Molson and watch some hockey. You'll feel better...
  • Re:Great Firewall (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @02:48AM (#16971230)
    We believe in authority up here more than in America it seems.

    That is rather frightening really or naïve, believing that others somehow want what is best for you by the simple fact that they managed to cheat and lie their way to the top. Then again humans seem to love to give criminals big guns and then wonder why they got shot in the head.

    It's unlikely to be abused, especially if there is some transparency.

    Of course it will get abused sooner or later, everything is once someone with a potential gain finds a way to do it.

    It's very American to automatically respond to this kind of thing as though it was a threat.

    No, it's the safe way of doing things. See unlike say Great Britain we feel that losing all our freedoms gradually by "small but increasing steps" is not a good things.

    Stop acting like a teenager.

    No, unlike you we understand human nature and the nature of those in power. Only the naïve and stupid think that things will not be abused or that those in power should be blindly trusted at all.
  • Re:Slippery slope (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gatesvp ( 957062 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @03:04AM (#16971312)

    Fortunately, Telus doesn't maintain the list, we do, these guys are federally funded [].

    If problems come up we (the public) file complaints and the issue gets handled. Sure, we can insert comments about poor response times, red tape, etc. But that's neither here or nor there.

    Point is, this is a government-sponsored list from a group with a good track record. If you don't like it, write to your local government reps and tell them about it.

  • Re:Um, come again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @03:33AM (#16971474) Homepage Journal
    According to my understanding of the law in the U.S. (IANAL...yet) you are correct. It is the inciting of (criminal) action that can get one in trouble here.

    Unfortunately, that's not the case. Post details on pipe bombs and molotov cocktails on your web site with a blurb that it's informational only, in order for people to better protect themselves from them, or in the future make them if and only if a legal need arises. Then see what happens.

    You're free to say anything that the government likes. If they dislike it enough, they always have provisions for getting you. Much like any other country, at any other time.

    Your best defense is to support the rights of even those you don't like. If your parents had, in the 50's and 60's, supported the communists' and peaceniks' right to speech, the bill of rights might still have had some power. As it is, it doesn't. It's easy enough to brand someone critical of the government a potential terrorist, and the first, fourth and sixth amendments get suspended.

  • by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @04:08AM (#16971652)
    The main problem is people are seeing this as an "in" for people who just want to block anything they disagree with. First you block illegal material, then since people are totally fine with blocking illegal material why wouldn't they also want to block "hateful" material? Finally, all you then need to do is expand the definition of the word "hateful" ever so slightly.

    One of the most insightful slashdot comments I've ever seen, though I've lost the source, said something along the lines of "if a legislator says 'but it will never be used this way' they are lying. It is meant to be used that way and as often as possible."
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @04:28AM (#16971786) Journal
    There's a national blacklist here as well, and I've inadvertely ended up on it and got some harsh message from a police website about pedophilia or whatever it was. :-S

    Which brings me to my point -- I hope they never log whoever are ending up on these blacklisted sites to somehow use the information, because with spam messages, scam sites, and the general reality of the web, one can easily end up on blocked sites without even intending to. In my case, it was about some misleading link on a regular legit webpage, or maybe the domain had expired and been bought up by some shady business. :-p

    Personally I'd rather be without these blocks, and can't say the world have become a better place with them. It seems to in no way shatter e.g. pedophile groups with the continued problem. Someone who're really looking for this can also just head over to Freenet for example. I think the downsides of risking false positives aren't really worth it.
  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @05:14AM (#16972046)
    Its all well and good to say "its ok to block this very limited set of sites" (child porn, hate speech etc). But what happens when the copyright cartels (MPAA/RIAA/etc) say to the ISPs (and government) "if you can block child porn, you should be able to block other illegal content such as illegally copied music and movies" and then use their lobbying power to force such blocks?
  • Re:Um, come again? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @07:22AM (#16972778)
    When I'm surfing through a school/company I'm using their systems, and their machines for free. If they want to block something, I have no right to complain.

    When I'm surfing at home, on my computer, through my telephone line, I'm paying for everything. If anyone thinks they're censoring that connection they can fuck right off.

    If they want to go after the purveyors of questionable websites using the existing laws, then fair play to them.

    If they want to set up a general, overly-broad, excessively-powerful system designed to block out literally "anything objectionable" automatically and on a massive scale, then they can either:

    1. Hold a national referendum every day or two to define precisely what is "objectionable", and set the filter accordingly,
    2. Allow everyone to register their own "objectionable" criteria and only block those sites on a per-person basis, or
    3. Fuck right off.

    Censorship is bad, even when it's necessary. Centralised, automated censorship is really, really bad, and has never been shown to be necessary. End of story.

    Even if you trust the present administration 100% on every subject (and who really, honestly trusts politicians, especially these days?), once you set up a system so powerful you aren't just trusting them, you're also implicitly trusting every single administration that ever comes after them.

    Skirting Godwin's Law for a minute, even if you trusted the German government of 1900, would you trust the german administration of 1939?

    Transferring this kind of power to governments is a one-way street - no government ever sat back, looked about and said "Y'know, we've got far too much information on people, and too much damn power. Let's shred some files, drop some database tables and uninstall a few cameras, eh? Just for shits and giggles".

    Transferring this kind of power to a government is handing them a loaded pistol pointed at your head. Sure, you might trust the guy you handed it to, but it's going to get passed on every four years, so in four years time you have no idea whose finger is going to be on the trigger, and it only gets worse as time goes on.

    Transferring this kind of power to governments should not be equated with handing a gun to a good and trusted friend. It's more like handing a gun to a complete stranger - why would you do it unless it was absolutely, clearly essential for your immediate survival?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @07:35AM (#16972858)

    How does that work? Does everyone who wishes to publish any magazine or newspaper have to have each copy examined by the official censor before it is allowed to be sold? Are the decisions of the censor secret, so no-one is allowed to know what is being censored?

    No, but fines are imposed if there are violations.
    The only magazines I know are subject to it are pornography. The basics are you can't import a magazine which violates a Customs Officers idea of morality. The solution to that is to publish the magazine within Canada, but that subjects you to other, but more consistent, requirements.

    The only mainstream magazine I know which had issues over the years is Hustler; and having read descriptions of what the issues were I can't say I disagree in the majority of cases. Sounded to me like Hustler enjoyed having some very disturbing images on it's covers, never mind within the magazine.

    Canada isn't the United States, and has a more consistent enforcement of certain decency laws, in the U.S. such interpretations are based on the local community, not federal regulation. Of the two, I know which I would prefer. Fighting it at the national level is actually easier.

  • Re:Chilling effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:40AM (#16973584) Homepage Journal
    "...there is still child pornography available easily on the interest), how do you want to handle this problem?"

    I don't want to "handle" it because the availability of child pornography on the net is *not* a problem.

    Paedophiles are a problem, but that's a matter for traditional policing and law enforcement that is being handled perfectly well in most cases. Whether you can or cannot download child pornography is effectively irrelevant to the problem of paedophilia itself since a) paedophilia has existed for several thousand years before the Internet and b) there is no evidence that the number of paedophiles has increased since such pornography appeared on the net.

    What is more of a problem, however, is preventing those people who would curtail the freedoms of the majority in a futile attempt to "solve" the problem of child porn on the Internet. This is an old, old, mistake: moral collapse, crime and social degradation are laid at the door of every new technology and social phenomenon that appears (cars, coffee, freeways...). The net is no exception.

  • Re:Chilling effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by laughingcoyote ( 762272 ) <barghesthowl&excite,com> on Friday November 24, 2006 @10:08AM (#16973840) Journal

    How about "Quit worrying if anyone looks at it, and start worrying about those who actually abuse actual children?" Seems simple enough to me. I've no interest in looking at the stuff myself, but I'm not concerned if anyone else does-I am concerned if someone causes actual harm. Unfortunately, that can't be solved with silly censorship measures, but it sure would do a lot more good.

  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @10:30AM (#16974048) Homepage Journal
    It is also considered a logical fallacy.
    Blocking some sites doesn't have to be a bad thing. In the US and Canada and other countries child porn is illegal. If you publish a magazine full of 12 year old children having sex you will go to jail. Do you feel this is also wrong? I know of people that worry that even that is a violation of freedom of speech.
    If the list is.
    1. Made public.
    2. That the methods required to add a site to the list require a court order.
    I am sure that as long as it is done publicly that some Canada Civil Liberties group will act as a watch dog and take them to court for blocking any site they feel is legit.
    Canada as well as several members of the EU already have some laws on the books about hate speech which in the US would definitely be violating the US idea of freedom of speech. And yes some of it is political speech. Ugly vile and disgusting political speech but political speech all the same.
    A good example is France threatened to charge several Yahoo executives of crimes against humanity because a French citizen bought Nazi memorabilia off a US Yahoo auction site.

    Every law can be abused. That is why public disclosure is so important.

  • Re:Oh Slashdot... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ccool ( 628215 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:15PM (#16975116) Homepage
    If they know what to ban, why don't they just arrest the guy/organisation?

    I mean, child abuse is illegal in many contries, so why don't they just arrest the guilty. This way, you won't have to ban/censor a whole country!
  • by BgJonson79 ( 129962 ) <<ude.ipw.mula> <ta> <htimsrs>> on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:18PM (#16975158)
    Burning of Washington, DC: 1814.
    Canadian "Independance": 1867.

    How can Canada burn down DC when Canada wasn't invented yet?

    It's like saying India won WWII because they were the UK's Jewel of the Empire.
  • Re:Chilling effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ced_Ex ( 789138 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @12:38PM (#16975386)
    Don't you think that Supply and Demand works here? I mean, if you want it to be ok to look at, obviously at some point someone had to produce those images.

    Also, what consent did those children give for their photos to be used like that? Don't you think they ought to have a say?

  • by Atlantis-Rising ( 857278 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @03:50PM (#16977324) Homepage
    No it doesn't. Freedom of speech means freedom to say what you like, regardless of content; it does not mean freedom to say what you like, regardless of intent, or freedom to say what you like, regardless of consequence.

    An example for each of the above three:
    You are equally free to espouse your love for coca-cola or pepsi;
    You are equally unable to say anything that could be construed as insightment to a breach of the public peace in a public place, even if that incitement is as simple as yelling fire in a public theatre or as complicated as advocating racial genocide on national TV;
    You are, to some degree, sheltered from the consequences of your actions if the words are true and spoken in good faith.

    After all, libel is free speech too, isn't it? And yet that's totally illegal! Why, that's a violation of our right to freedom of speech!

    No. It is not your speech being punished; it is the reprecussions of your speech that is being punished. There is a difference substantial.
  • by leereyno ( 32197 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @08:02PM (#16979438) Homepage Journal
    Hate speech is a scam. Outlawing the expression of unpopular ideas strikes at the very core of the freedom to speak one's mind freely. Nazi's and KKK racists and islamofacist jihadis etc etc etc are all very distasteful people who believe things that are even more distasteful. But to forbid and criminalize the expression of their beliefs does nothing to refute or change those beliefs. The only thing this creates is a world where unpopular ideas are suppressed and their expression is subject to official sanction.

    There are many people in this world who have bought into all sorts of destructive ideologies. The only way to keep these dangerous dogmas in check is by addressing them and discussing them and refuting them. Mainstream society is the culimination and the product of open dialogue where all ideas come together to vie and compete for an audience and followers. This process is the reason why mainstream western society is NOT under the influence of dangerous and/or extremist ideologies. Mainstream society in a culture of open discussion and dialogue converges upon concusions which, while not always the absolute best, are generally among the better conclusions and almost never among the worst. When mistakes are made they are quickly corrected.

    But whenever this system of open discussion of all ideas is cast aside in an attempt to avoid the worst ideas, the result is that those ideas are never examined, and therefore not held in check. The irony is that this creates the very conditions under which those ideas can come to the forefront.

    The best way to fight lies is not with a gag order, but with the truth. A gag order can give the appearance of victory over lies, but at the cost of sacrificing the very process by which the truth is discovered and preseved. If you shut your eyes to lies, they won't be open to see the truth.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen