Reflecting on the CRTC’s Hate Site Blocking Decision

My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) looks at last week's flurry of activity over Internet-based hate sites at the CRTC, including the request for an order to permit voluntary blocking and the Commission's decision to deny the request on Friday.

Had the CRTC addressed the substantive questions, the case would have presented an enormously difficult choice.  There is little doubt that the content in question is illegal and that Warman faces a serious threat.  By directly targeting Warman, the foreign sites have arguably brought themselves within Canada's jurisdiction.  Further, by merely asking the CRTC to issue a voluntary order, Warman avoided state-sanctioned censorship and placed the issue in the hands of ISPs.

Despite the good intentions behind the application, however, there remains some cause for concern.

First, it is unlikely that the order would have proven to be effective given that the CRTC’s jurisdiction is limited to the major telecommunications carriers, with many ISPs remaining outside of its regulatory mandate. 

Second, blocking technologies are notoriously overbroad.  For example, when Telus last year blocked Voices for Change, a website supportive of one of its labour unions, a university study found that hundreds of additional websites were inadvertently blocked in the process.  Although blocking technology may have improved by targeting domain names rather than IP addresses, there is a real risk of blocking legitimate content.

Third, blocking foreign content establishes a dangerous precedent that can easily be misused.  While child pornography can and should be blocked since merely viewing such content is illegal, the prospect of extending blocking to hate speech, defamation, or even copyright infringement complicates the analysis considerably. 

If there is an effort to develop an appropriate policy framework, it will need to include complaints mechanisms, a presumption that the content is lawful and must be disproved by a high standard of evidence, an opportunity to challenge blocking requests, appropriate judicial oversight, and full transparency about blocking activities.  The job is not the CRTC's alone – law enforcement and the judiciary must surely be involved in the process of determining what may constitute unlawful content and the remedies that follow – but the regulator can assist in the process.


  1. I Must be dumb and blind
    Putting who did what aside and keeping in the topic of the article (which i even found myself straying from).

    You said: “the foreign sites have arguably brought themselves within Canada’s jurisdiction.”

    This goes back to the first comment i made in the 1st article on this. Why are the authorities NOT doing anything? Why did the CRTC have to become involved?

    Can we not have a extradition for this crime?
    If a death threat was there for all to see, is this not in itself a crime, even in the USA? (I seem to recall high-school kids being taken in for less than this in the states when uttering less than the hate mentioned is the reference articles).

    Does this open a legit lawsuite against the enforcement agencies in the states for not following within their own laws?

    I just don’t get it. Maybe because i’m just a regular non-lawyer type person, I just lack total understanding of it.

  2. After reading through the Canadian Jewish Congress’ web site: I found this:

    “Mr. Warman and the Canadian Jewish Congress are considering appealing the CRTC decision, said Mr. Farber.”
    [ link ]

    If it is truely a failing of law-enforcement and this is now under investigation (which to me would be a great victory) WHY are they (the Canadian Jewish Congress) saying they may fight the CRTC decision?

    Also, that same link says:
    “The CRTC can order Internet service providers (ISPs) to block websites from Canadian Internet users, but has rarely done so.”

    Has it been “rarely done” or NEVER done as Mr. Geists column implies (since there is no structure for it)?

    Also in the complaint lodged and the CRTC findings at this web site:
    [ link ]

    It states (more or less) that they have the backing of “larger” ISP’s. WHO are these ISP’s that have backed a censor ex-parte?

    I am not one to doubt many things on Mr. Geists website (he’s like a hero of the Canadian internet to me and many others) but this case leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. I am seeing some lies or exagorated “truths” here that leave me feeling that this is a case by the CJC to force a censorship on us Canadians to suite their own goals and needs (which on the above link says it for my own good and the Canadian good).

    Am I seeing things? Do i need to go get a perscription for lithium, or do others see this as well?

  3. hunh?
    Mr. Geist Said:
    “Warman avoided state-sanctioned censorship and placed the issue in the hands of ISPs.”

    Excuse me I am just A regular person with no knowledge of law. My understanding comes from what I read on your site and other sites like yours (Yours being the best of course).

    However, How does an EX-PARTE put it in the hands of the ISP?

    If I understood all this right, EX-PARTE means with-out say (with out the right to voice concern, which is what the CRTC ruled against). In other words, Warman Filed this WANTING NO SAY from the ISP’s. Am I wrong in my understanding?

    :/ I feel dumb asking this, but this is my understanding of it.

    Can someone please comment on this, or correct my lack of understanding?


  4. In response to hunh?, the CRTC order would not have required ISPs to block content. It would only have given them the right to block if they so chose — the decision would therefore have been placed in their hands.

  5. Commander, ANSWP
    I understand that the brainwashed lemmings of Canada cannot understand this, but:

    In the United States, it is legal to say that other people, particularly foreigners, should be murdered, as long as you don’t try to kill them while they are in the US.

    Further, in the United States, it is illegal to extradite US citizens to foreign countries to face trial for political crimes, including advocating the overthrow of a foreign government, criticizing protected groups, and advocating revolutionary actions against foreign officials.

    It is also illegal to extradite foreigners who seek refuge in the United States, though this is spotty.

    So, and I understand that you guys are so beaten down and brainwashed you don’t get this, I have not violated any laws in the US, and the laws of Canada have no impact outside of Canada’s borders.

    This means that the vast majority of white people on the North America continent live in a society that is radically different than yours.

    It is because of these radical differences that the Canadian government and Canadian culture is not compatible and actively dangerous to the government and culture of the United States, and should be replaced with a “regime change”-style first strike war.

  6. Thanks for the reply and explaination/clarification. I appreciate it, and the time you took to write. 🙂

    Makes more scense to me now in regards to what Mr. Geist said/wrote.


  7. A-lemming-here says:

    In response to “bill white”,

    I can see your point, even though its ummmm hmmmm… kinda radical and not my ummm style or my beliefs. Call me a passivated lemming , I am.

    I’m not saying I agree to a censor of any kind, nor am I saying I agree with YOU or this Warman/CJC case brought to the CRTC (though I can understand why they did this now, thanks for the clarification and opening my eyes to the Warman/CJC side of it [guess I was blind to it])

    However, I can’t (just my opinion) see how anyone can advocate hate or murder. Nor can I see the “vast majority of white” North-Americans being so radically different that they would support this. Perhaps a little slice out of the larger population pie.

    Your 1st four paragraphs however does seem to hold some water (to me the lay person). A litmus test to this would be the Cuban/Castro relation with the USA.

    In my personal opinion, as a non-supporter of the Warman/CJC-CRTC case, I still think “mr. white” should be locked up or at least have his frontal lobe scraped a bit (if it isn’t already).

    Can I buy you a one-way ticket to Canada? I’ll toss in a free poutine!

    TY for opening my eyes. :/

  8. Fairness Fairy says:

    In response to “hunh?”:

    It’s not just the ISPs that should have a say. The citizens should have a say as well. In a democratic society, if it’s a citizen that is putting forth a petition to allow for the CRTC to demand or allow it, then citizens as well as the websites themselves should be allowed to make their submissions.

    Also, the request was not for ISPs to be allowed to block all websites that have this kind of content or death threats, it is specific to these two sites. Who’s going to make the distinction on which sites should be blocked?

    Censorship by a corporation is much worse than censorship by the government. In principle anyway. The government, for the most part at least, has judicial oversight. The CRTC’s decisions can be moderated by a review in Federal Court. Corporations have are afforded a level of autonomy to make internet decisions. This is the exact reason why CRTC has put a rule in place to NOT allow ISPs to block websites unilatterally.

    What would’ve happened if they won?

    Knowing the CJC, and knowing more about Richard Warman, they would’ve petitioned the ISPs to block the websites. Any ISP that decides not to voluntarily block the websites would likely get letters and harassment, and the CJC would post public declarations that they are anti-Semitic.

    I think the CRTC saved the ISPs from that kind of tough decision.

  9. Actually i was called anti-Semitic and vile today in another forum because i said I don’t agree with it (it being, the way Mr. Warman and the CJC went about it and them doing this with the CRTC).

    Just for the record i’m not, :/ Nor do i have to be labeled for not agreeing with Mr. Warman and the CJC.

    Kind of reminds me of Bush’s “your either with us, or against us” speech. No inbetweens.

    However what you said about, “Any ISP that decides not to voluntarily block the websites would likely get letters..”. Yes there is reference to this on the CJC’s own website claiming they will be held liable or something to that effect. It would put them all in a tough place. I agree with that part. The pressure would be on.

    After seeing the “bill white” post above though, I can’t blame Mr Warman and the CJC. They did what they felt they had to do I suppose. Even if I don’t agree with it. I can imagine the threat and then the taunting (as above). Its sad really that it came to this.

  10. So umm, Who is Fairness Fairy (no personal info needed)? Its always good to know both sides to everything, but you seem to know allot more than what I can ever find, or what I have read regarding the issues of who is who ect. I don’t need any info, but you sure do seem to know allot about Mr. Warman et al. I noticed you havent preached any hate aside from resentment to certain individuals. So I won’t label you, each has a right to their say. Maybe others will though, since you don’t appear to be a “team” player. Like i was.

    Have you ever had your own run-in of sorts? Sounds like you have a knowledge, run-in, or encounter that goes back a while… No reply required. Has me curious though.

  11. Fairness Fairy says:

    I\’m a \”Google Hacker\”, turned \”political analyst\”. I\’ve always been aggravated by one-sided reporting. I\’m using this case to get my name out and my blog advertised by acting as the devil\’s advocate. I first turned onto this case because of a post that I read about Richard Warman in response to a news article on this CRTC case.

  12. The fairness fairy is Marc Lemire, a well known Canadian neo-nazi and leader of the Heritage Front.