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Bill S-210 is Just the Beginning: How a Canadian Digital Lobby Group is Promoting a Standard to “Foster Widespread Adoption of Age Verification Technologies in Canada”

This week’s Law Bytes podcast features a revealing discussion with Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, the chief architect and lead defender of Bill S-210 or the Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act. It may be the most dangerous Internet bill you’ve never heard of since it contemplates measures that raise privacy concerns, website blocking, and extend far beyond pornography sites to include search and social media. The bill started in the Senate and is now in the House of Commons, where last year Conservative, NDP, and Bloc MPs voted alongside a small number of Liberal MPs in favour of it at second reading and sent it to committee for further study. The government has called the bill “fundamentally flawed”, but there may be sufficient House support to turn it into binding legislation.

While Senator Miville-Dechêne emphasizes stopping underage access to sexually explicit material and her view that that goal merits site blocking and mandated age verification even for some uses of Google and Twitter, a new standards initiative suggests that some envision far more extensive use of mandated age verification systems. The Digital Governance Council is one of several Jim Balsillie-led organizations focused on influencing government digital and innovation policy. Its CEO is Keith Jansa, who Senator Miville-Dechêne identified in the Law Bytes podcast as her source for providing assurance of the privacy safeguards in the bill.

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January 31, 2024 19 comments News
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 190: Debating Bill S-210 – Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne Defends Her Internet Age Verification Bill

I’ve described Bill S-210, the Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act, as the most dangerous Internet bill you’ve never heard of as it contemplates measures that raise privacy concerns, website blocking, and extend far beyond pornography sites to include search and social media. The bill started in the Senate and having passed there is now in the House of Commons, where MPs voted in favour of it at second reading and sent it to committee for further study. Senator Julie Mivelle-Dechêne is the chief architect and lead defender of the bill. A former Radio-Canada broadcaster who was appointed to the Senate by Justin Trudeau in 2018, she joins the Law Bytes podcast to debate her bill as she provides her rationale for it and defends against the criticism and concerns it has sparked.

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January 29, 2024 3 comments Podcasts
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Canadian Copyright in the Age of Generative AI: My Submission to the Government’s Copyright Consultation

The government’s consultation on copyright and generative AI closed last week. The submissions are not yet public, but I am pleased to post my submission, which focused on an exception for text and data mining, the inclusion of copyrighted works in large language models, and the copyright implications of outputs from generative AI systems. My submission noted that the consultation raises several questions related to generative AI and copyright. I focused on three:

(1)  Should Canada proceed with a text and data mining exception as recommended in the 2019 Copyright Act review?

(2)  Should Canada introduce legislative reforms to address the use of copyright works in large language models (LLMs) that are central to the development of generative AI technologies?

(3)  Should Canada introduce legislative reforms to address copyright-related questions arising from the outputs of generative AI systems?

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January 23, 2024 8 comments News
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Site Blocking and Age Verification for Twitter, Instagram, Snap and Twitch?: Age Verification Lobby Confirms it Wants Bill S-210 to Cover All Social Media Sites

Bill S-210 – the Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act – burst onto the public scene late last year as a majority of the House voted for the bill at second reading, sending it to the Public Safety committee for review. The bill, which is the brainchild of Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, was supported by the Conservatives, Bloc and NDP with a smattering of votes from backbench Liberal MPs (the cabinet voted against, signalling it is not supported by the government). The bill raises significant concerns with the prospect of government-backed censorship, mandated age verification to use search engines or social media, and a framework for court-ordered website blocking (I appeared before the Senate committee that studied by the bill in February 2022, arguing that “by bringing together website blocking, face recognition technologies, and stunning overbreadth that would capture numerous mainstream services, the bill isn’t just a slippery slope, it is an avalanche.”).

In response to the public criticism of the bill, Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne has suggested that concerns about it extending to general purpose social media sites is overstated since the intent is to target adult content sites. Yet that is not what the bill provides as it applies to anyone who makes sexually explicit material available on the Internet for commercial purposes:

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January 10, 2024 10 comments News
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The Year in Review: Top Ten Michael Geist Substacks

My look back at 2023 concludes with a review of my most popular Substacks of the year. Given the overlap between blog posts and Substacks, there is unsurprisingly overlap between the most popular posts with the piece on Bill S-210 occupying the top spot on both charts. However, there are differences, with posts on the CBC and my appearance before the CRTC that focused on competition and consumer choice making their way into the Substack top ten.

1. The Most Dangerous Canadian Internet Bill You’ve Never Heard Of Is a Step Closer to Becoming Law

2. Caving on Bill C-18: Government Outlines Planned Regulations that Signal Willingness to Cast Aside Core Principles of the Online News Act

3. Bill C-18 and the CBC’s Self-Destructive Approach to Government Digital Policy

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December 28, 2023 7 comments News