from the every-cyber-bill-a-Frankenstein's-monster dept
The drawn-out process in which a bill becomes a law lends itself to harmful things, like mission creep and bloating. Canada's new cyberbullying legislation, problematic in its "purest" form, is now becoming even worse as legislators have begun hanging language aimed at other issues (child porn, terrorism, cable theft [?]) on the bill's framework.
As was noted earlier, language aimed at punishing revenge porn had already been attached to the bill. But the urge to target as much as possible with a broadly written bill is too much for Canada's politicians to resist. Michael Geist notes that Bob Dechert (Secretary to the Minister of Justice) took a moment during the debate to speculate about the "dangers" of "stolen" cable.
With respect to the cable, I would like the member to consider if his cable were being tapped into by someone who was transmitting child pornography over the Internet, or if his home Wi-Fi was being tapped into by someone who was using it to cyberbully another child, he would want to know about that and he would want that to stop. The modernization of those provisions is simply to bring them up to date.The code Dechert refers to deals with theft of services. What Dechert is hoping to do is turn a targeted law into something that can be used to pursue vagaries. By throwing cyberbullying, child porn and terrorism into the mix, Dechert is hoping to limit opposition to this "update" of the language.
The amendments proposed on those long-standing offences of stealing cable are already in the Criminal Code in section 327. They simply update the telecommunication language to expand the conduct, to make it consistent with other offences…
However, I would like him to think about the potential for someone who is doing cyberbullying, transmitting child sexual images, or perhaps planning a terrorist act, doing it by tapping into some law-abiding citizen's cable or Wi-Fi Internet access.
Geist doesn't think much of Dechert's statement.
In other words, Dechert is suggesting that accessing a neighbour's cable or wireless Internet access might somehow be linked to planning a terrorist attack, sending child pornography, or engaging in cyberbullying. I would happy to think about the potential for cable theft to play a role in terrorist plots. In fact, I think most would agree that there is no likelihood whatsoever and that the government should stop trying link provisions in their "cyberbullying bill" that have nothing to do with cyberbullying.The odds, as Geist points out, are almost nonexistent. But very slim odds are a legislator's best friend. No one wants to be caught out by the unexpected, especially when they had a chance to head it off back when the bill was being written. So, a lot of "just in case" rhetoric is deployed, accompanied by fearful projections.
If this line of reasoning is allowed to proceed, Canadians could be looking at the possibility of legal penalties for running unsecured WiFi connections. It seems implausible, but this has been witnessed before. Back in 2010, a German court stated that those running open WiFi connections could be fined for not securing their networks (thus "enabling" illegal activity). Copyright maximalists have made the argument several times that an open WiFi connection is "negligent." When the realization sinks in that it's easier to target the listed subscriber rather than find out who exactly was performing criminal activities on an open WiFi connection, you can be sure that the solution will be routed along the path of least resistance: holding the subscriber responsible for the actions of others.
And, as Geist points out, the mission creep in this bill is astounding. What was meant to target cyberbullies has instead become a playground for legislators. A nearly non-existent threat is being used to beef up the penalties for cable theft, as though that part of the equation were the greatest deterrent to illegal activities. It's also concerning that the additional powers being granted to law enforcement outside of the cyberbullying scope were omitted from the government's official "introduction" to the bill (posted without the bill's text). This omission seems to indicate that the crowd-pleasing "cyberbullying" angle will allow legislators to copy-and-paste whole sections from a previously unsuccessful "lawful access" bill, itself defended with cries of "child pornography."