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Canadian Bill S-210 Sparks Controversy Over Internet Regulations

A new bill in the Canadian Senate, Bill S-210, has ignited a heated debate over its potential impact on the Internet in Canada. The bill, which mandates strict age verification for online content, has raised significant concerns among privacy advocates, network operators, and digital rights groups.

Liability concerns: Bill S-210 imposes stringent liability risks on network operators, content delivery networks, search engines, and email services, requiring them to implement age verification for users and monitor the content flowing through their platforms. Critics argue that these requirements are not only impractical but also threaten to fragment the Internet, compromise user privacy, and undermine security tools like encryption.

The bill’s broad scope extends beyond pornography websites to include social media and streaming services such as Netflix, Crave, Prime, and CBC Gem. This means that shows like “Game of Thrones,” which currently require only a rating and warning on cable or satellite, would necessitate age verification on streaming platforms.

A misunderstanding: During a recent committee hearing, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis suggested that the rules would apply equally online and offline, demonstrating a misunderstanding of the bill and the Criminal Code. The bill uses an expansive definition of “sexually explicit material” from the Criminal Code, which includes various forms of media depicting sexual activity. However, this definition was intended for specific sexual crimes, not general content regulation.

Undermining net neutrality: Privacy Commissioner of Canada and other government officials have warned that the bill could undermine net neutrality and an open Internet. They argue that relying on a “legitimate purpose” defense for arts and education is risky, as streaming services may face severe penalties, including website blocking, if they are found in violation.

Critics have also pointed out the irony of Conservative support for this bill, given their previous opposition to content regulation under Bill C-11. They argue that Bill S-210’s reliance on the Criminal Code’s definition is unsuitable and could force Canadians to undergo invasive age verification processes for common streaming content.

As the debate continues, opponents of Bill S-210 urge Canadians to contact their MPs to express their concerns and stand up for an open and private Internet.

By CircleID Reporter

CircleID’s internal staff reporting on news tips and developing stories. Do you have information the professional Internet community should be aware of? Contact us.

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