Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Now that we are all waking up from the alcohol fueled coma we have been sotted in since the election (for better or for worse) Bill C-51, a happy bundle of interesting developments to our criminal code, has been noticed. It makes me sad to admit it, since I relish taking the steam out of other people's alarmist ventures, but the bill is exactly as bad as we've been dreading.

It functionally makes anonymity illegal in every way that matters. Just recently I had heard a story on the radio about a politician whose reputation was smeared because an anonymous story had been published on the Internet and its scandalous nature boosted it to the first results when the man's name was googled. He alleged the story was untrue, and for a moment I pitied him and thought, "Isn't there anything we can do about this?" The answer is, "Yes, but not without eroding free speech." The bill states that everyone commits an offense who uses a false name to convey information that they know is false with intent to injure and alarm. Consider the reading of injure here to include libel, and the bill includes a pretty big tool for people who have been slagged on the interwebs. I am split on this notion that we should not be allowed to knowingly pass false information, but this may unfairly place the onus on every conveyor of information to ascertain truth or falsity, under pain of legislation. Furthermore, the ribbing and untruthful attacks on power is a form of keeping the playing field level, of allowing disgruntled citizens to feel they are getting their 'shots in', the falsity of most allegations come forth in time, should this really be a criminal offense?

On this development, however, there is some discussion about what really constitutes 'Anonymous'; for example, is an Anonymous handle merely sufficient, or does it refer to a deliberate obfuscation of one's ISP? Further, since it is also an offense to misrepresent one's identity, will a misleading handle (i.e StephenHarper) be illegal,or will a misrepresentation of the owner of an ISP be necessary? The language seems to suggest a handle is sufficient, but it would be foolish to eliminate their other form of prosecution.

The bill also makes no differentiation between people sharing a link to hate speech because they think it's cool and people that pass it for the purpose of information. This means a group working to stop the origin of the hate speech is just as culpable as the creators of such, if they link to their intended target. I have always disagreed with disconnecting the spirit of an offense from the fact of an offense, and this bill neatly aims to do just that in one of the most controversial areas of the law.

Finally, in conjunction with that old bill C-52, where I alleged that people would have to either turn off their phones or leave them at home, we now no longer have the option. This new bill would give police the right to remotely turn on a phone or other GPS tracking advice, such as those found in cars, similar to the way emergency services do. True, the warrant is currently limited to 60 days, unless it is linked  to a terrorism offense or organized crime. I guess they really didn't appreciate those G-20 cell videos. Looks like we're back to the days of carrying camcorders.

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