Critical Supreme Court case could shape future of the Internet
OpenMedia is intervening in Supreme Court of Canada case that will have vast implications for global free expression online
September 13, 2016– An upcoming case at the Supreme Court of Canada could have a major impact on the ability of Internet users across the globe to access information and express themselves freely. The court will be considering an appeal to a decision made last year by the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Equustek Solutions Inc. -v- Jack that required Google to deindex results from its global search engine.
OpenMedia has been granted leave to intervene in this critical case. While it will not take sides on the original ruling, it will argue that when restricting access to content, online free expression requires particular attention from the Court, and that the Internet should be a protected medium of communication under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Among other groups granted intervenor status are the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“We’re intervening in this case to defend free expression online and the right of people everywhere to access information freely,” said OpenMedia’s Executive Director Laura Tribe. “The Internet is an essential tool for free expression for people across the globe. That’s why we’re fighting to establish the explicit protection of free expression online in one of the most influential courts in the world.”
Tribe continued: “The stakes couldn’t be higher, as the outcome of this case will be felt worldwide. This case has the potential to set a precedent for perfectly legal and legitimate links to disappear off the web because of a court order in the opposite corner of the globe. But we’re intervening to argue that we should all benefit from clear rules that ensure we can express ourselves freely and have essential access to information online.”
The case was recently highlighted by Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, as one of the most significant the court will be hearing this fall. The case has global implications because:
It 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 consider censoring content on the Internet;
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;
If this case goes well, Canada will show leadership and set a positive example for other nations wrestling with these issues.
The deadline for factums from intervenors to be submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada is October 5. Arguments from the appellants and respondents are due by October 19, with oral hearings commencing on December 9.
People can learn more about this important court case at OpenMedia.org/en/SupremeCourt.