Defending Free Expression at the Supreme Court
OpenMedia is intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada to defend free expression on the Internet.
This case will have a global impact: although it’s being heard in Canada, its outcome will impact the ability of Internet users across the world to access information and express themselves freely.
Why is OpenMedia intervening in this case?
We’re intervening in this case to defend the rights of individuals to online free expression and access to information.
The Internet is an essential tool for free expression for people across the globe. We’re fighting to establish the protection of free expression online as a basic right in one of the most influential courts in the world.
People want to be able to find the information they need online – nobody wants for links to be missing or for content to be blocked.
We think it’s important to set a strong precedent that censoring or removing material from the web should only happen when the implications for free expression have been clearly considered by the courts.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the outcome of this case will be felt worldwide. The decision made by the Canadian court will be looked to by other national governments and courts, so it’s crucial that we get this right.
The case was recently highlighted by Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, as one of the most significant her court will be hearing this fall.
What happens if we win?
If we win, all of us will benefit from clear rules that ensure we can both express ourselves freely and access the information we need online.
If we win, Canada will show leadership and set a positive example for other nations wrestling with these issues.
What happens if we lose?
You could see perfectly legal and legitimate content disappear off the web because of a court order in the opposite corner of the globe.
Globally censoring what search engines can show in their results would be a huge setback to our rights to access information and express ourselves freely.
Which other groups are taking part?
Among the other groups granted intervenor status are the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a coalition of international organizations concerned with digital rights.
Are you taking sides on the original case of Equustek v. Google?
Our arguments are focused on the implications for freedom of expression, and we’re not taking sides on the merits of the original Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack case or the BC Court of Appeal Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc. case.
We’re not arguing that search engines should never be required to remove material from search results, but that the process through which this happens must take into account our rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
We’ll be arguing strongly that the Internet should be a protected medium for free expression.
I see your organization is financially supported by Google. How can I be sure OpenMedia is acting independently in this case?
OpenMedia is an independent organization – our goals and policies are shaped and driven by the community we serve. We do not take on projects that are funded solely by any one organization or set of organizations, and grassroots support is a must for our work.
Sometimes, OpenMedia will take on campaigns where some of the aims overlap with those of a business or organization that funds our work. However, our involvement is never predicated on this support and we choose which projects to work on based on our core principles and mandate. For more information on our funding policies and relationships, check out the Our Supporters page on this website.
I don’t live in Canada. Why should I care?
Canada’s Supreme Court is highly influential, so if this case goes well, it will set a positive example for other nations wrestling with these issues.
This is one of an increasing number of cases worldwide where web platforms are being asked to implement restrictions on expression online that reach far beyond the borders of the country where the case was heard.
The online free expression legal safeguard we’re trying to establish will set a new standard we hope will be looked to as a model when courts in other countries grapple with censoring content outside of their jurisdiction.
If this case goes badly, then it could lead to a domino effect, where foreign governments and commercial entities justify censorship of search results by pointing to the precedent set in Canada.
What are the key dates ahead?
October 5: Deadline for factums from intervenors to be submitted to the Supreme Court.
October 19: Replies to intervenors factums from the appellant and respondent are due.
December 9: Oral hearings commence.
Check out our detailed infographic about the Supreme Court process
How can I help?
Donate! We may only have one shot at this, and the deadline is coming up fast. We need to guarantee we have the resources to make the strongest case possible and ensure the concerns of Internet users around the world are represented. Legal action of any kind is expensive, and that’s especially the case when it comes to taking action at the Supreme Court. Can you donate now to support this important work?
Nerd alert: want to learn more about this case? Take a deeper dive into the details of the original case at issue with these excellent resources:
OpenMedia's Memorandum of Argument
Michael Geist: B.C. Court of Appeal Upholds Global Deletion Order Against Google
ABlawg: Worldwide Delisting from Google Search Results: The Significance of Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc.
Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia University: Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack