Last month, I appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to discuss Bill S-210, a bill that aims to limit minors’ access to pornography sites by implementing age verification and website blocking requirements. I warned that face recognition technologies, which are often used for age verification, raise serious privacy risks and that website blocking would have negative consequences for freedom of expression. Further, I emphasized how incredibly broadly the bill is drafted. While the Senators were focused on some well-known pornography sites, widely used sites and services such as Twitter or Reddit are also captured by the bill, raising the possibility of age verification to send a tweet or read a Reddit post.
The committee’s study of the bill continued yesterday with an appearance by Scott Hutton, the CRTC’s Chief of Consumer, Research and Communications. While Hutton emphasized there were no easy answers and that net neutrality principles would likely preclude action with respect to content regulation under the Telecommunications Act, his responses to some Senators reinforce concerns that should Bill C-11 pass, the Commission will be in the Internet content regulation business through the Broadcasting Act. Indeed, while Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and the CRTC have sought to downplay concerns that the CRTC would seek to regulate online content, Hutton told the committee the Commission needs more power in order to adopt a more interventionist approach: