Two years after the suicide of Amanda Todd, Carol Todd has found herself going from an advocate for change to having her voice silenced on the debate of cyberbullying that has since detoured into a renewed heated debate about Lawful Access in Canada.
Many, especially Canadians, will remember the suicide from Amanda Todd. Prior to her death, Todd posted a video describing the continual harassment, bullying, and blackmailing from strangers on the web. After her death, the video was brought forth to the public eye and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). It also received interest from the international media. For at least a year, the video would be the symbol for why laws need to be put in place to curtail such extortion’s. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, the government decided to take this international story and turn it into a social license to introduce major surveillance measures (known as “Lawful Access” in Canada) that go far beyond the scope of what authorities and the media called “cyberbullying”.
Lawful Access, from the very beginning, has had a major problem of having a social license. Multiple Liberal governments, backed by police chiefs, tried pushing what really is warrantless wiretapping onto Canadian users. Unfortunately for the government, the best reasoning that could be thought up was that it was too hard to ask a judge to spy on Canadian citizens, and, therefore, oversight needed to effectively be scrapped altogether. In response, the Canadian public got organized and many sharply criticized the government for failing to offer reasons that would justify such a major compromise on personal privacy. As a result, Lawful Access repeatedly died on the orderpaper thanks largely due to delays and, subsequently, elections.
After the Conservative party took power, some thought that with a change in government would mean a change in policy and perspective on the file of personal privacy and Lawful Access. For those who were hoping for change, the return of Lawful Access as if very little really changed behind the scenes drew reactions of shock, disappointment, and anger. Regardless of who was Prime Minister, the problem of social license persisted because the debate ultimately never changed. In fact, skepticism of the governments position only grew after the infamous comment by Vic Toews when he defended Lawful Access by saying that people “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”
It wouldn’t be hard to view Lawful Access as either dead in the water, or would only be passed under a loud opposing chorus from people ranging from average citizens to privacy commissioners to experts and more.
Enter the Todd case.
Carol Todd, Amanda Todd’s mother, brought the issue of “cyberbullying” to the forefront. Many rallied behind her to demand change to Canadian laws that would, among other things, curtail blackmailing and sexual extortion online. Fighting such activity isn’t really hard to get behind even if a law could hope to do something to stymie such activities in Canada. All of Todds efforts did catch the interest of the Canadian government. With public support on side and the interest of the Canadian government, everything seemed to point to something being done about this.
Unfortunately, the Canadian government had other plans.
Sure, something was getting done about bullying and sexual extortion online, but it seemed that the government was more willing to pounce on an opportunity to pass what Canadians never wanted in the first place: Lawful Access.
Carol Todd and others were upset that things like the suicide of her daughter was being used as a shoehorn to pass legislation that would erode civil liberties so much. In fact, Carol Todd appeared before committee to express her opposition to the Lawful Access provisions:
“I don’t want to see our children to be victimized again by losing privacy rights. I am troubled by some of these provisions condoning the sharing of Canadians’ privacy information without proper legal process.”
“A warrant should be required before any Canadians’ personal information is turned over to anyone, including government authorities,” Todd said.
This sentiment from such a well known advocate for the protection of children online seems to have proven to inconvenient for the government. Now that the government has been able to use Amanda Todds suicide to their advantage, the interest, as far as Carol Todd is concerned, is to dump her before more people realize what measures were bundled with this anti-harrassment legislation. According to Michael Geist, Carol Todd is upset that democracy seems to have taken a back seat in all of this:
As the Senate hearings continue, she has now expressed surprise and disappointment that she has been excluded from the process, noting that the government does not want her voice to be included and asking “what happened to democracy?”
What happened is that the government no longer wants to hear from one of the country’s most prominent voices on cyberbullying given her concerns that “we should not have to choose between our privacy and our safety.”
As gloomy as it may sound, one subtle piece of silver lining in all of this is that Amanda and Carol Todd are far from being the only victims by the current Canadian government in all of this. Almost every Canadian will feel the effects of the erosion of privacy in Canada. If Lawful Access receives royal assent before dying on the order paper, Canadians will have to become familiar with things like VPN providers just to try to restore their online privacy rights.