Canadian Ethics Committee Recommends Against Internet Censorship

In another blow to bring censorship to Canada, the Canadian House of Commons Ethics committee recommended rejecting Internet censorship.

If Bell’s Fairplay Canada coalition was hoping for some good news at some point in the horizon, this definitely isn’t it. In yet another blow to bring Internet censorship into Canada, the Canadian House of Commons Ethics committee has concluded that Canada should not adopt the coalitions censorship proposal. They said that censorship would go against the Canadian governments push to retain network neutrality.

Network neutrality is basically a concept that all traffic is treated equally by the carriers. Those carriers can’t block, censor, or throttle certain kinds of content. So, it the Canadian government wants network neutrality, then blocking would be a non-starter. As such, the Ethics committee basically concluded the obvious.

While the decision at the moment is basically at the regulator level, this latest ruling is politically significant. This is because if the CRTC rules against evidence, the will of the Canadian people, and expert analysis on the subject and rules in favour of the corporate coalition who have already used threats and pressure tactics to get their way, then there is an additional obstacle at play. There is the incentive by the Canadian government to follow along with the Ethics committee and find a way to reverse such a decision.

Michael Geist made the following observation:

The committee report also waded into the site blocking issue, calling on the government to reject it should it be approved by the CRTC. Recommendation #2:

That, in the event that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission supports FairPlay Canada’s application, the federal government consider using the authority provided under section 12 of the Telecommunications Act to ask the CRTC to reconsider its decision.

The committee asked Bell and Rogers about the site blocking proposal during their appearance. The companies argued that it did not implicate net neutrality, but the committee was unconvinced. The report states:

The Committee recognizes that it has received limited evidence on the Fair Play proposal and that the CRTC will decide on the application, after having considered all of the submissions it has received. However, the Committee is of the view that the proposal could impede the application of net neutrality in Canada, and that in their testimony, the ISPs did not present sufficient explanation as to why the existing process is inadequate or sufficient justification to support to application. The Committee also remains skeptical about the absence of judicial oversight in the Fair Play proposal and is of the view that maintaining such oversight is critical.

Therefore, the Committee is concerned that, in the event that the CRTC accepts FairPlay Canada’s application, net neutrality may be eroded in Canada by allowing Internet content blocking and censorship. These concepts are at odds with net neutrality, which ensures an open Internet.

The report, which received support from all political parties, then notes that the government has the power to ask the CRTC to vary, rescind, or refer back a decision. That power led to the recommendation that the government exercise that power should the CRTC approve the proposal. With all parties joining in a recommendation against the site blocking plan, the report represents a strong signal that the FairPlay coalition plan led by Bell does not have political support given that it raises freedom of expression, due process, and net neutrality concerns.

One thing is for sure, this latest development is looking more and more like a nail in the censorship coffin. The coalition is finding itself in an increasingly isolated position and is facing opposition from pretty much every angle. All this goes over top of the moral implications of Internet censorship in the first place. What about the free speech angle? What about due process? What about fairness in the marketplace?

Barring any unexpected and nasty surprises, it’s looking like Canada’s S.S. Censorship is already sinking.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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