May 11, 2011
Proposed Crime Bill Makes Anonymity and Hyperlinks Illegal in Canada
Will anonymity and hyperlinks be illegal in Canada?
A new crime bill proposed by the Conservative government suggests that it could. The bill, one of several that is scheduled to be read in Parliament, would place new limits on creating hyperlinks to content considered to be illegal or to using a pseudonym online.
On the surface the idea is ridiculous. Both of these things are central to making the Internet what it is - a vehicle for citizen-centric dialogue and sharing information. Surely the government would never adopt such a position!
But during the past election campaign Stephen Harper made it clear that he intended to ram through a collection of crime bills within his first 100 days of office. These bills include, among other things, allowing government increased power to monitor your activities online. They also include a provision that would penalize people for linking to content that is considered 'hate speech' and for using names that protect their anonymity online.
These laws are meant to give police more powers to fight hate speech and harassment but as a recent Macleans article points out, they are poorly written and vague, leaving them far too open to interpretation.
While advocating and perpetuating hate should absolutely not be tolerated, the proposed crime bill does not make a distinction between people who are spreading hate and those who comment on it. Should it not be our right as citizens to be able to comment on things, regardless of their content? Restricting our ability to do so is a serious violation of our freedom of speech.
As written, the crime bill holds us responsible for the actions of other people. The content of websites on the internet changes all the time. Something that you link to today could contain hate speech tomorrow, and you have no control over that content.
This legislation will inhibit dialogues that need to happen in our society and punish people for exercising their right to freedom of speech.
Canadians need a citizen-centric and affordable internet that enables them to speak openly about issues that matter to them. It's clear that these new crime bills are taking us in the wrong direction.
This is why it is so important that we grow our Pro-Internet Community and continue to pressure the government to promote an open and affordable internet that serves the public. Together we can keep the government accountable and the internet free.