Blocked websites by Tactical Technology Collective https://flic.kr/p/8KDGTc (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Blocked websites by Tactical Technology Collective https://flic.kr/p/8KDGTc (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Blocking is Back: Why Internet Blocking is the Next Big Canadian Policy Battle

In early 2018, Bell led a consortium of companies and organizations arguing for the creation of a new website blocking system in Canada. Complete with a new anti-piracy agency and CRTC stamp of approval, the vision was to create a new system to mandate site blocking across ISPs in Canada. Canadians challenged the so-called FairPlay proposal and the CRTC rejected the Bell application on jurisdictional grounds. Since that time, the Canadian courts have been dealing with site blocking requests (the Federal Court of Appeal is soon set to hear arguments on the issue) and the Canadian copyright review conducted by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology decided against recommending the creation of a new administrative system for site blocking.

While the CRTC site blocking application may have been settled, the blocking issue is about to hit the spotlight once again in Canada, only this time it involves multiple initiatives across several substantive areas. In addition to the case at the Federal Court of Appeal, the copyright related website blocking seems likely to be the subject of a public consultation this summer as the ISED and Canadian Heritage copyright departments continue to dismiss the results of Canada’s most extensive copyright consultation in a decade. The department release on the deeply flawed copyright term extension consultation (now extended until the end of month) included a reference to a follow-up consultation on a “modern framework for online intermediaries.” That is thinly-veiled code for a website blocking system, particularly given that the online intermediary issue was just modernized during the last copyright reform process in 2012. In other words, the lobbyist pressure for website blocking continues and the departments are sadly all-too-eager to comply.

But the blocking issue is not limited to copyright. The CRTC is currently conducting a consultation on botnet blocking. The first round of comments closed on Monday. The CRTC has raised the possibility of several different types of blocking, including domain-based blocking, Internet Protocol (IP)-based blocking, and protocol-based blocking. It states that its preliminary view is that “network-level blocking is a viable strategy to prevent the harm botnets cause to Canadians and to promote the Act’s policy objectives.” It notes that safeguards would be needed, including the ability to opt-out at a subscriber level and to “minimize subscriber information monitoring, collection, and usage.”

Yet the reality is that Canada’s telecom providers have been working on these issues for decades without the need for a regulator to mandate a blocking system. Further, any blocking system creates collateral damage including over-blocking of legitimate websites and increased costs for consumers. While there is room to increase information sharing and update codes of conduct, a CRTC-based blocking mandate will open the door to a steadily expansive approach to Internet blocking. In fact, the consultation has already attracted a submission from Allarco Entertainment that wants an expansive definition of botnets to include streaming devices so that blocking would extend to copyright with mandated blocking against unauthorized streams (in other words, Fairplay through the botnet back door).

Allarco’s botnet bait and switch to copyright demonstrates the slippery slope that arises in the context of content blocking. So too does the forthcoming online harms legislation, where the prospect of mandated blocking of hate content is a real possibility. Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has already downplayed the risks of constitutional challenges of the legislation, despite the fact that the provisions on misinformation in Canada’s election law has been struck down by a court as unconstitutional. The government has thus far shown little regard for the speech implications of its Internet regulation plans, suggesting that blocking could be part of the policy equation. If so, a constitutional challenge would be inevitable. When combined with policy developments in the copyright and CRTC fronts, there is a major effort underway to reshape the Canadian Internet with concerns around net neutrality and freedom of expression seemingly giving way to government and regulator-backed blocking schemes.

30 Comments

  1. Another of those “zombie ideas” making a comeback?

    • It’s not a zombie idea, it’s the equivalent of the (in this case spoiled) little kid in the store saying “can I have it?” over and over again in the most annoying way possible to their mum until she either caves or leaves the store.

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  4. Fascist Tyranny

  5. In my opinion, if these restrictions are the same all over the world, the resulting problems will not occur. But these laws are different in each country

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  7. Such teen drama by the telecoms will only drive people into the ‘Dark Net’, ‘Deep Web’ or whatever the media hype has chosen to call it this month. Unless our overseers in Ottawa dictate that the telecoms must track us, and block us from .onion then the deep/dark web is the only safe place away from the clutches of perverted telecoms pimping out our rights to privacy.

  8. Carmen Kazakoff-Lane says:

    I worry that it could be used by publishers to block open access materials released with an open license via a repository. It is just too complicated – and simple technological fixes are not capable of dealing with the myriad of ways information is disseminated.

  9. This is all very comic, or would be if it weren’t so pathetic. All the night-crawlers come out and cry “fascism”, “tyranny”, blah blah. It’s my right to get illegal stuff online dontcha know. “And I’ll gladly go to the dark web to get it if you try to take it away, because a throiving dark web, where people buy guns and traffic humans and buy and sell massive quantities of lethal narcotics is great, if it gives me my free stolen movies and music. Yeah!

    And Geist speaks to them in code the way Trump speaks to his base. It wasn’t just certain groups who defeated site blocking a couple of years ago, it was “Canadians.” That’s funny, I’m Canadian and I don’t recall blocking the blocking at all. There are dog whistles everywhere these days it seems. And Pavlov puppies to follow wherever it takes you.

    • George… I have to congratulate you on the first post of yours that is completely unhinged and lacking of any actual logical point or argument. There is zero useful content to be gleaned from your diatribe of strawmen, argumentum ad hominem, and gaslighting. Bravo. But then, you are the same guy who raged that “unlawful Tor use should be illegal” (would love to see how you’d make that work without creating a complete dystopian surveillance culture btw), so I’m not surprised.

      • “unlawful Tor use should be illegal” aka using Tor for an illegal act should itself be illegal, which I indicated can’t really work without massive overreaching surveillance.

        Also George, don’t know if you know, but Trump is no longer president or even an elected politician, so using him as the eternal boogyman is beyond passe (especially in Canada). You gotta move on buddy.

        • I don’t know if you know, Lindros, but criminal acts are not protected by any privacy rights. To start with. “Catching me breaking a crime is an invasion of privacy” is not a particularly compelling argument.

          And hey, have you noticed all the surveillance cameras everywhere? I don’t like them, personally. Sounds like massive over-reach to me. Ever been to London, in recent years? The place is a massive reality TV show. But what are you doing to keep “them” from putting them up?

          And, ya know, Trump may not be in power, but 75% of the people who voted for him believe the election was rigged, and his minions are out there spreading all the lies he did. Geist’s faux-populism works the same way, that’s all I pointed out: “Candians” rejected blocking, eh? When he wins a batttle, it’s because “Canadians” share his values. When he loses, well, powerful forces have thwarted the will of “Canadians”. No parallels, eh?

          • legalbeagle says:

            ahh but what you are tryingto really say is whether you are guilty or not we need to spy on you so if that .00000000000000000000001 % does somehting we might catch them if they arent smart use proxies and other tech to subvert whom they are or even use a stolen accoun t to do things

            its like putting a cop aty my window peeping and toming all day on me

            ITS FREAKING CREEPY
            needs to stop

          • legalbeagle says:

            also i would add the charter of rights and freedoms does protect my right to privacy and security and that means UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE I MIGHT OR CAN BE UP TO SOMETHING you cant have this law its agaisnt my chartyer rights
            cause you cant use it on me when im innocent as well as a million others to catch one dumb criminal

        • Hey “Eric Lindros” [just a joke between Eric L. and I folks, with apologies to the real Eric Lindros], where did you go? I’ve been waiting for you to come back and defend the dark web, the trafficking of humans, the sale of assault rifles on-line to psychopaths by dark web sellers, the illicit trade in addictive opioids, and yes, the pirating of my work, all in one spot, the dark web, the onion, all in th ename of “freedom” and “privacy”. How about it?

      • I think, if you check, with respect to Tor, that I argued that there is no justification in the world for a web site to be located on the dark web, Tor, whatever, without citizens being able to determine who owns it, runs it, etc. You libertarians have it all backwards. It’s like the difference between Snowden and Assange. Apart from the fact that one has morals and ethics and the other is a bottom-feeding piece of scum, Snowden wants to protect people from abuse, Assange doesn’t care who gets hurt. So it’s like “Sharon” said above – if it gives me my free stolen movies, who cares what else goes on there. You expect, if you get sick in a restaurant or you know that a dry clearners is actually a Hells Angels front, to be able to find out who owns the building, who owns the shop, etc. That’s your right as a citizen. No one has a right to open a restaurant and keep their identity hidden, or at least some sort of publicly accountable corporate identity. My objections to Tor have nothing to do with individuals having a private browser. They have everything to do with people doing really really awful things with no public scruting possible. Why would we want that? Why do you want that?

  10. The upshot is that if someone is selling guns of women or fentanyl on the Internet, I want my government to be able to figure out who it is. Just like they can trace back a head of lettuce to teh farm when people start dying, with code numbers on the package. Do you not want them to be able to do that? Why not? And if they want to include stolen movies and music and books in their list of things to block, hey, I’m a creator, my work is stolen by people like you and “Sharon” and “Bridgette” — who wrote some really profound stuff above, dude, check it out rather trhan complaining I’m unhinged — so I’m all for it. Stop stealing from me and calling it freedom and privacy.

  11. selling guns OR women or fentanyl. I’m a lousy typist.

  12. If you’re carrying out a business activity, whether you’re the corner florist, a pirate or a human trafficker, you do not have privacy rights. Get that out of your thick skulls, libertarians. Your identity should be no more concealed than that of the owner of the restaurant at the corner of your street. If the owner doesn’t want his name on the business permit, he registers a company with the city and Canada Revenue and the health department. We — and law enforcement — should be able to see who or what is behind every web site in the world. Only people who benefit from criminality think otherwise. Your movie downloading is part of a vast illicit web of criminality addicting people to fentanyl, laundering mafia money, selling weapons to crazies and entire militias and armies, trafficking human beings, etc etc. Wake up.

    • On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog.
      That’s been true since before the millenium.
      Even if websites weren’t private by default,
      how could we tell a true ID from a false one?
      Although some owners voluntarily ID themselves,
      it was never required, and was never enforceable.
      We couldn’t, nor do we need or even want otherwise.
      Germany forced Facebook to allow pseudonyms,
      this is proof there’s value in not being identifiable.
      So it’s not just criminals, but also those who know
      what history teaches, that government must not
      be given the power to spy on us, and instead we
      must defend this freedom to speak without fear
      of embarrassment, of reprisals, or of censorship.
      Sticks and stones maybe, but words cannot harm.
      So let’s keep things the way they have always been,
      where anonymity is the default, and no one is ever
      tried and convicted just for things that they have said.

      • I’m not talking about individuals posting comments on blogs. I’m talking about commerces selling stuff on their own web sites. We have every right to know who those people are, just like we have a right to know who owns the corner restaruant. By “who” I mean some accountable entity – a registered business, etc. You need a business permit to open a shoe-shine stand at the train station. Why can you sell guns and pirated movies online globally in secrecy?

        • Next up, you’ll be advocating for a public register of firearms ownership.

          If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Right?

          OK, maybe I’m being a bit more hyperbolic.

          On topic – net neutrality is critical from even a usability position. Ie: your ISP offers telephony services for 39.99/mon. Instead of paying 480/year for a phone you want to use a VoIP provider for 30/year. You pay the ISP for providing you acxess to the net but the ISP gets grouchy and deproritizes this service because it competes with their own offerings.
          This protocol based filtering is nothing more than an abhorrent money grab.

          Now with encryption, you’ll probably argue that backdoors are crucial for law enforment efforts. The reality is that backdoors then make the WHOLE system vulnerable to nefarious actors. Even if we use an unbreakable algorithm and a master key — once that master key goes wild, the whole system is vulnerable.

          The integrity of unfettered internet access or encryption must never be compromised.

    • So, I guess you have never been persecuted for your beliefs, opinions, or associations.

      Imagine nonchalantly disagreeing with a government policy or criticizing an official – only to be meeted by the StB (or similar branch) the next day at your place of employment.

      Even if you are released with no further considerations, your job is gone because people will fear associating with anyone under governmental surveillance.

      I’m not describing a dystopian future. I’m describing a realized history that many people faced for over 4 decades.

  13. Next up, you’ll be advocating for a public register of firearms ownership. That’s be super! It would fall right inline with Trudeau’s C-22 in reducing sentences for violent offenders.

    If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Right?

    OK, maybe I’m being a bit more hyperbolic.

    On topic – net neutrality is critical from even a usability position. Ie: your ISP offers telephony services for 39.99/mon. Instead of paying 480/year for a phone you want to use a VoIP provider for 30/year. You pay the ISP for providing you acxess to the net but the ISP gets grouchy and deproritizes this service because it competes with their own offerings.
    This protocol based filtering is nothing more than an abhorrent money grab.

    Now with encryption, you’ll probably argue that backdoors are crucial for law enforment efforts. The reality is that backdoors then make the WHOLE system vulnerable to nefarious actors. Even if we use an unbreakable algorithm and a master key — once that master key goes wild, the whole system is vulnerable.

    The integrity of unfettered internet access or encryption must never be compromised.

    • The wackos have now really shown their true face. Not only do they not believe in regulating the internet, they also don’t believe in gun registries. As countless people have pointed out, the law requires you to get a tag for your dog and a permit to drive a car (although I gather you’re opposed to those things too), but you don’t want to register your guns. You people are twisted.

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