With broad-based criticism of the Bell website blocking plan, supporters have tried to dismiss the opposition by characterizing much of their analysis as “misinformation”. Yet a review of many expert submissions reveals widely held concerns regarding the proposal. Many point to the absence of court orders as a key flaw and no one – whether supporter or critic – disputes that the majority of countries that have used site blocking require court orders. Further, claims that human rights concerns are unfounded ring hollow in light of the critical submission from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Efforts to dismiss the cost implications of site blocking are undermined by the clear position of the majority of Canadian Internet providers that the expenses associated with blocking are likely to lead to increased consumer costs and reduced competition.
Many submissions similarly point to the risks of over-blocking legitimate content.
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As the public concern over the Bell coalition website blocking plan continues to grow (both the Canadian Press and CBC this weekend covered the thousands of interventions at the CRTC), the case against the plan resumes with a review of why it is likely that it will lead to over-blocking of legitimate websites. Last week’s post highlighted the probable expansion of the scope of piracy for blocking purposes, a theme that continues today with a look at the many incidents over-blocking of legitimate sites sparked by website blocking (other posts in the series include the state of Canadian copyright, weak evidence on the state of Canadian piracy, the limited impact of piracy, and why the absence of a court order would place Canada at odds with virtually all its allies).
The danger of over-blocking legitimate websites raises serious freedom of expression concerns, particularly since experience suggests that over-blocking is a likely outcome of blocking systems. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report in 2014 on the rule of law on the Internet in the wider digital world, noting:
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