Government Introduces Mandatory Child Porn Reporting Law

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson today tabled the Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation).  As widely reported, Bill C-58 creates a mandatory disclosure requirement on Internet providers where they become aware of child pornography websites or have reason to believe a subscriber is using their service to violate child pornography laws.  Where an Internet provider submits a report on a user, they must preserve the relevant computer data for 21 days and they are prohibited from disclosing the disclosure to the customer.  Failure to report may result in fines or imprisonment and providers are granted immunity from liability for reporting the activity.  The definition of Internet provider is broad, extending beyond just ISPs to include those providing Internet access, hosting, or email services.  In other words, services like Google, Hotmail, and Facebook are all covered.

The bill shares similarities with provincial laws (ie. Ontario) and those that report under the provincial law are exempt from the federal version.  While few will criticize a bill targeting child pornography – everyone agrees that child pornography is abhorrent and we need to ensure that we have laws to deal with the problem – it is hard to see what this bill actually accomplishes.  Canada already has:

Further, while there are reports that Canada is a source of child pornography websites, a major European based study concluded that focusing on the World Wide Web and blocking content makes little sense in trying to combat child pornography (the same report found that image blocking initiatives like the Canadian Project Cleanfeed are ineffective).  Instead, the real problems lies in dissemination of child pornography in newsgroups, private groups, and other private spaces that fall largely outside the potential for tips envisioned by Bill C-58 or Canada's Project Cleanfeed.


  1. Positioning for election?
    That’s my take on this as well – the legislation probably wouldn’t accomplish much of anything that’s not already being done, and is probably just about political optics.

    The Cons get to be seen in the media as “doing something” about child pornography, and they can throw it onto their “list of accomplishments” for their election campaign. And it also gives them the opportunity attack any MP who dares question the utility or effectiveness of this legislation as being a “in favour” of child pornography.

  2. Yes, but…
    I understand that you don’t expect the legislation to be helpful, but that leaves the question of whether it’s benign unanswered. Do you feel this law is harmful, or just useless?

  3. Me, I kind of feel that any law intended assuage a mental state or conscience rather than an actual problem is, by nature, not benign.

  4. hmm,
    I’m sur they copyright people are happy about it.

    RIAA: ‘So mr. ISP while your searching your customers to see if they are perverts, let us know if you come across any ‘illegal’ audio files. I mean the infrastructure is already in place’

  5. Your_name_here says:

    The Great Firewall of China
    This bill, if it becomes law, would outlaw running an exit point for the Onion Router network, which would hurt people living in oppressive regimes get real news. Well, at least Canadians wouldn’t be able to help them.

    The pervs will just move to a more anonymous network, such as the freenetproject or i2p.

    I was dubious about me’s point above regarding the RIAA, but one has to wonder if the end goal of proposed legislation like this is in fact to make it illegal to possess encryption software at all.

  6. Useless
    I have a feeling nothing is going to come of this and a few innocent people will be falsely accused, they should have a talk to their IT department before trying something like this.

  7. This law should be applauded.
    I think critics of this law haven’t read it. What we have is a 9 paragraph law (+ definitions) which does _exactly_ what opponents of more draconian laws have been calling for.

    This law should be applauded.

    It explicitly imposes NO obligation OR even authorisation for monitoring.

    It implements NO extra-judicial proceedings or punishments.

    It simply declares that child-pornography is a sufficiently grave crime that an ISP that becomes aware of it should be required to inform someone who has the legal authority to investigate further; must retain any evidence they are aware of so it can be investigated; and may not inform the subject of the investigation they made the report.

    Even more significantly, this is the first child-pornography legislation I have heard discussed that takes seriously the concept of balance.

    1. The ISP is only subject to the reporting requirement if they become aware of child-porn in the normal course of duties; it does not even permit them to go look, let alone require them to do so.

    2. It imposes a mandatory requirement that the ISP protect the privacy of the accused by requiring the destruction of any retained evidence that would not normally be retained as soon as possible 21-days after notification unless a JUDICIAL ORDER is made extending the retention.

    3. The restriction on informing the subject of the notification is only to the extent it would “prejudice a criminal investigation”. (although as this is itself qualified with “whether or not a criminal investigation has begun” I’m not sure when you would be able to rely on this.

    4. It explicitly protects the ISP against civil liability for the disclosure – the reason why a law like this is useful.

    5. It explicitly retains the right to be protected against self-incrimination.

    6. It explicitly acknowledges the issues of foreign jurisdictions – in that a report to a foreign agency is considered sufficient where they have jurisdiction; so it avoids having ISPs deluged by multiple cross-jurisdictional reporting requirements.

    In all, this looks to me to be a balanced and surprisingly well drafted law. We should be applauding this level headed approach and encouraging more of this type of drafting.

  8. Michael Dundas says:

    curious about the false positives
    I am curious about how the bill will handle the false positives? For example:
    Subscriber gets hacked and has a server that serves up child pornography without their knowledge. ISP tells law enforcement, who then gather data, kick in door and arrest individual. Individual looses job, is labeled by society as a ‘bad person’ — this has happened many times over the years, but recently situation has been in the papers —
    Bet that hasn’t been thought through by anyone.

  9. Muy – Thanks for the additional information but…
    Will this law enable a law enforcement officer or a bored ISP employee to conduct surreptitious “investigation” against during the 21 day grace period without any red tape under the mere basis of “suspicion” or “awareness”?

  10. Requirement for monitoring infrastructure?
    “It explicitly imposes NO obligation OR even authorization for monitoring.”

    Near the end of the cbc article ISPs expressed concern over having to spend money to implement monitoring infrastructure. Will the “relevant” data requirement, necessitate the implementation of DPI and similar technologies?

  11. RE: Encryption SW & dog and pony show
    I was dubious about me’s point above regarding the RIAA, but one has to wonder if the end goal of proposed legislation like this is in fact to make it illegal to possess encryption software at all.

    If that were the case you would never be allowed to use the internet as your browser contains encryption software that gets used whenever a SSL transaction is needed.

    I really think this law is a dog and pony show. There are more effective means out there to track down child porn. Already if someone suspects someone else of a criminal act you are required by law to report it. by not reporting it you could be held as an accessory.

    I think this law is the modern equivalent of the long-gun registry. It’s feelgood legislation that looks good on paper and is designed to do nothing.

    How else are the ISP’s supposed to track a users data stream without some sort of DPI Gear and a horrendous amount of hard drive space? Even if the ISP were to port mirror traffic from the users DSL modem or DSLAM at the local telco node they would have to save every bit that passed through for the time period.

  12. I read the bill at, but am not a lawyer. I remember a similar bill being discussed that would allow for warrantless wiretapping (no judicial oversight). I didn’t see anything to that effect in this bill, so am I simply confusing this with a different bill?

  13. Mr
    This is redundant legislation designed for posturing. All citizens, corporate or not, have a duty to report a crime when observed. Our government shouldn’t be trying to make the legal system more complex, it should be doing the exact opposite. If they were truly serious they would increase sentencing minimums. It’s pure theater.

  14. Neil Schwartzman says:

    Executive Director, North American Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
    When Project Cleanfeed was announced, I specifically asked the ISPs involved (Bell, Telus) if they would be reporting any such activity to LEA. their answer was a terse ‘No’. Apparently some of the participant ISPs do report some content.

    I then asked if they would do anything beyond blocking, for example, reporting those repeatedly attempting to access blocked content (kiddie porn) to LEA. their answer was ‘No’.

    The fact that this expands the scope beyond ISPs is right-headed, much illicit content is hosted on accounts on global services (Google docs, Yahoo! calendars, and so on.) I disagree, Michael that “the real problems lies in dissemination of child pornography in newsgroups, private groups, and other private spaces that fall largely outside the potential for tips envisioned by Bill C-58 or Canada’s Project Cleanfeed.” Depending upon the interpretation of the scope of the law, I believe that ““Internet service” means Internet access, Internet content hosting or electronic mail.”” is wide enough to cover some of these ‘news groups, private groups, and private spaces’ to which you refer. If there is connectivity provided to such a service, and presumably there is, the provider is on the hook to report when they become aware.

  15. grunt
    more regulation and costs for an unenforceable item.
    even light ebcrytption would beat this
    another annonomous data stream, just dandy.

    finking is now a required lifestyle.

  16. definition of ISP’s…?

    The open-ended definition of “ISP” makes me wonder if people that (for whatever reason) leave their wireless routers unprotected, could be charged under this law?

    Imagine a knock at the door, and grandpa is arrested for unknowingly providing access to porn to some of his neighbours.


  17. Not enforcable
    Let me start by saying that i have no problems with blocking access to such information. That being said unless the law makers are prepared to pony up the dollars to implement the man power and devices required to monitor such activity it is not inforcable. Non dominant carriers may simply not have the funds to do this type of monitoring. While a private network does provide Internet access it is not in the definition of the CRTC an ISP. It is simply a method to pass the buck of catching criminal activity from those entrusted with upholding the law to someone else.

    Simply put it is a law with no bite, great in theory, impossible to enforce.

  18. Farrell McGovern says:

    Paranoid idea…
    Elsewhere, one person pointed out that this bill would, as a back door, force ISPs to keep all sorts of additional data that would be over great interest to Big Media in going after an ISP’s clients…if the info is there, it can be subpoenaed…just in time for ACTA to come into force!

    But maybe I am just paranoid…:-)

  19. Although I am totally against kiddie porn, these new rules and procedures are an attempt of destroying the very basis of our charter:
    – presumption of innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt.
    – seizure of evidence without just cause and due course.

    I wonder what the people that say it’s OK to barge into your home to check for any sort of contraband “for the children”, if the stormtroopers came through, ransacked their house, maybe charged them with some menial thing, then left? Then the media get hold of the story and say that Mr./Mrs. ___ was investigated for kiddie porn. Hell, as the previous poster said, it might even be your grandfather, because either his network isn’t secure enough, or his computer got infected with some sort of malware.

    Either way, the immediate stigma with the name published has destroyed that entire family.

    Nice going.

    How about this one: or

    The fachists are dancing in the streets. The soldiers who fought for our freedoms are rolling in their graves.

    Folks, we’re on a VERY slippery slope here.

  20. Debate
    I’m currently watching the debate in the House of Commons over the bill. Interesting debate to say the least. I think your right Michael that it’s hard to see where this bill helps the problem of this disgraceful content being propogated today. The Liberals made an interesting point that it’s strange that this isn’t being put into the criminal code. Why not ammend the criminal code instead of have a separate law?

    I’m sure the Hansard, when it’s released in a few days, will provide some interesting insights in where members of parliament stand on this issue.

  21. Not As Bad As I Feared
    I have to say I am quite surprised with this bill. I originally thought this was just another attempt by the Government to spy on us or get into our computers (like ACTA and Lawful Access is), which is why I posted an ultra-paranoid comment when this bill was first announced in the “Must Reads” section.

    I have to say now that I was wrong though. This bill seems to do nothing to ease Government access into our computers/increase surveillance. As Geist says, it is all rather unnecessary as most ISPs already do what this bill requires them to do (though I can’t see any harm in having encoded into law). Now I just think it is an attempt to garner votes more than anything else.

  22. Walter James says:

    the height of Ridiculous
    The whole exercise of trying to control child porn is utter nonsense. It’s like trying to control mosquitoes by swatting them in a swamp.

    As it was in the Michael Jackson trial, no matter how serious the prosecuting lawyers may portray the offence of Child porn to be, a jury may smite it down in court,

    The idea that Bishop Lehay, collecting Kiddy shows, is in anyway a threat of any kind to anybody is ridiculous. It’s nothing more than an Inquisition in

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  26. David Hogard says:

    Child Porn Reporting Law
    The internet has opened up a world of information and a whole new realm of communication. It also facilitates the darker side of the human psyche, and has provided a venue for people who exploit children for gratification and monetary gain.

  27. This Law open up a door for Ex-wives and Ex -husbands to make false accusation, set ups for child porn cases by vengeful spouses. It has already occurred several times and the results have been devistating to families (specifically children) If they wish to put in this madetory law than then had better train invetigators to be prepared to look at the motives of the accusser(reporting individual)as well as allow for charges to be made against individuals falsely reporting and actually guilty of committing the acts in attempts to convict their EX-Spouse regardless of gender of the accuser