For most people sex and the internet are as natural a pairing as apple pie and motherhood.
But increasingly the easy access to pornography that so many have enjoyed for so long is being regulated, filtered and censored by a combination of government, law enforcement, internet service providers (ISPs) and moral busybodies.
Free speech activists say what we're seeing now is the beginning of internet censorship, with the regulation and removal of child porn as the initial motivation.
There are efforts to combat images of the sexual abuse of prepubescent children and the major ISPs are involved, says Nart Villeneuve, a research fellow at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab — which has done work with Chinese bloggers
and dissidents on how to avoid internet censorship — in an email. "They filter access to a small amount of sites that host this stuff and have review/complaint procedures and do not appear to be overblocking.
But once the infrastructure for filtering is in place — for any reason, though porn is usually the first excuse — there is an incentive to increase its use. I see 'mission creep' all the time where once in place, filtering is extended to cover
content areas that were not in the original mandate.
The Canadian Government has introduced legislation to expand its surveillance of Internet users.
In the spring, the Government of Canada introduced two pieces of legislation that would greatly expand the power of the state to monitor its citizens online activity. The legislation, known as the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C)
Act, would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to install costly surveillance systems on their networks and give police wide ranging new powers that do away with judicial oversight.
According to University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, the legislation would create additional requirements for ISPs and expand police powers. These ISP requirements can be broken down into two components. First, ISPs will be required to
install costly surveillance equipment on their networks. Part of the cost will fall to taxpayers while the remainder will be carried by the companies themselves. Some smaller ISPs will be exempt from this requirement for a period of three years,
creating an unfair burden on the larger, more successful companies. Second, the legislation would requires that all ISPs give personal information to the government, including the names of their customers, as well as their IP, e-mail, and mailing
addresses—on demand and without any judicial oversight.
Police will also gain expanded powers under this legislation. First, they will be able to obtain information about Internet-based messaging, including tracking what sites people are visiting and who they are communicating with. This information
will be subject to a judicial order. Second, police will be able to order ISPs to preserve data on their customers. Third, police will be able to obtain a warrant to remotely activate tracking devices in technologies such as cellular telephones.
Fourth, the legislation also deals with computer viruses and makes it easier for the government to coordinate its efforts with international governments.
There are numerous problems with the proposed legislation that should be alarming to freedom loving Canadians. It forces private business to not only be complicit in the government's attempt to spy on its citizens, it also forces them to shoulder
much of the financial responsibility for the new policy. As such, some ISPs may be forced out of business. In addition, the legislation gives law enforcement officials unprecedented access to private communications and forces ISPs to preserve
private data and disclose subscribers identities.