Age Verification Station by Nock Forager (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Age Verification Station by Nock Forager (CC BY-NC 2.0)


From Bad to Worse: Senate Committee Adds Age Verification Requirement for Online Undertakings to Bill C-11

The Senate committee studying Bill C-11 has ramped up the hours devoted to clause-by-clause review with amendments related to user generated content currently up for debate. However, earlier today, just prior to addressing the user content issue, the committee shockingly adopted an amendment that adds age verification for online undertakings to the Broadcasting Act. The amendment comes as a policy objective, meaning that it will fall to the CRTC to determine how to implement it. The implications are enormous since broadly defined the policy would require every online service that transmits or retransmits programs over the Internet (broadly defined to include all audio and audiovisual content) to establish age verification requirements to prevent child access to programs with explicit sexual activity. If the CRTC implements, the policy will surely be challenged as unconstitutional.

The amendment was proposed by Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, who is also the sponsor of S-210, which envisions similar age verification requirements. The amendment states:

(r.1) online undertakings shall implement methods such as age-verification methods to prevent children from accessing programs on the Internet that are devoted to depicting, for a sexual purpose, explicit sexual activity;”

The government voiced its opposition to the amendment, but it passed 7-5 with two abstentions. Depending on how the CRTC implements the policy, this could require age verification to access services such as Twitter and Google, which both enable access to this form of content. Age verification would raise a host of concerns, including privacy risks from collecting age data from millions of Canadians. I discussed this during my Senate appearance on S-210:

Second, I have similarly serious concerns about the reliance on age verification technologies, particularly the potential use of face recognition. We are only starting to come to grips with the risks associated with such technologies which raise privacy concerns, fears of bias and error, security risks, and the potential for misuse. To actively legislate their use runs directly counter to the current movement that seeks to restrict the use of such technologies until an appropriate and effective regulatory framework is developed. There may be some companies that do it better than others, but in the absence of a regulatory framework, the last thing we should be doing is effectively mandating its use.

This is a stunning addition to Bill C-11 that makes a bad bill dramatically worse. Further, it is discouraging that some of the same senators that have insisted on the risks to freedom of expression that arise from regulating user content in the bill would support implementing age verification for access that could easily extend to commonly used sites and services. If this survives further approvals (including the House of Commons), I don’t see how it survives a constitutional challenge.


  1. I wouldn’t worry too much Michael. This will be sent to the House who will simply send back the House version in about 10 minutes. At this stage, the Senate is just sending a note to the Commons through this amended bill with a wish list of things they want or points they want to make. But none of this will be adopted.

  2. Sok Puppette says:

    Seems like the age verification lobby is going wild in multiple countries. They’ve been influencing the “online safety” bill in the UK, and they’ve at least been talking about the US KOSA.

    • Sok Puppette says:

      Yep, sure enough. About 7 hours ago, the “Age Verification Providers Association ” (@The_AVPA, but please don’t give them any clicks) tweeted:

      “Canada takes a step forward towards #ageverification for online pornography. We’ve provided evidence to the Senate reassuring them that the essence of online Age Verification is proving your age without disclosing your identity.”

      So more of their usual lying. None of them have any system that keeps your identity from *them* (unless you count the image-based phrenology snake oil, and I’m not sure you can even use that without giving them your identity in practice). And I don’t think any of them have systems that prevent the age verification provider from having a full history of all your favorite porn sites.

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  4. The hackers are going to love this, another way to steal more information on people’s identities.

  5. Pingback: Bill C-11 age-verification clause a legal, privacy quagmire says former CRTC vice-chair – Rise Awake News

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  7. Just Askmen says:

    If either this bill or bill s 210 passes I plan to kill myself I just wanted to post that somewhere, its a choice ive become comfortable with over the past few years as these bills have attempt to pass.

  8. This is a direct attack on the legal and legitimate incomes of sex workers in Canada and around the world. Anti sex work crusaders are hard at work trying to narrow sex workers choices until there is nothing left but on street sex work – where we are killed and harmed at an extreme rate. The fact that anti sex work zealots would throw the rights of all Canadian content creators under the bus in the goal to eliminate/ kill us all demonstrates the extreme hatred we face from these “do-gooder” nanny state enablers…. the consequences for sex workers will be swift and harmful…..just as they planned.

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  10. Oh it will pass in the House of Commons, so we are screwed!

  11. Luke Marshall says:

    In what bass awards world do these people live thinking age restriction does anything but tempt teens to want it more!?!? I’m tired of this seemingly default behavior of restriction and punishment when The actual solution to educate and inform Canadians of factual information is some how not nearly sensational enough. Instead we are treated as invalids unable to choose for ourselves what we want to pay attention to. It’s absolutely dispicable that this ignorant, uninformed, judgemental and patronizing attitude is thought to be a sou d approach when considering the welfare of Canadians.