Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tangled 'Web' of Censorship

While sleuths in the service of Canada's Queen Censor/Redactionary-in-Chief keep tabs on "dangerous" non-Muslim "hate sites" on the Web, our parliamentarians are getting set to decide whether they're prepared to live with state censorship. The National Post's Joseph Brean reports that their deliberations may turn on the question of whether or not the Web has rendered it (i.e. Section 13) obsolete:
The 20-year-old legal reasoning behind Canada's human rights hate speech law is now "utterly outdated" because of the "interactive, dynamic and democratizing" effects of the Internet, according to arguments in Federal Court.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits online messages that expose identifiable groups to hatred or contempt, was designed in the 1970s for telephone hate hotlines. In 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it a justifiable limit on freedom of expression, in part because a telephone hate message "gives the listener the impression of direct, personal, almost private, contact by the speaker, provides no realistic means of questioning the information or views presented and is subject to no counter-argument within that particular communications context."
The Internet "radically changed" that context, by allowing for instant rebuttal and discussion, according to lawyer Barbara Kulaszka.
Parliament's decision in 2001 to expand Section 13 to include the Internet -- and therefore almost every word published in Canada, whether by a blogger or a media conglomerate -- is "such a fundamental change" that Federal Court is "not only justified but required" to revisit the question of Section 13's constitutionality, especially because it does not allow for the traditional legal defenses of truth or fair comment.

The Internet "provides every means of questioning information and of counter-arguing, the two vital factors missing in the telephone message context," Ms. Kulaszka wrote in her legal submissions for Marc Lemire, webmaster of The memorandum gives a glimpse of the battlefield terrain for the upcoming Federal Court review of Mr. Lemire's acquittal last year on hate speech allegations at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal...
The question for parliamentarians is pretty simple: do you believe or do you not believe in free speech? Should they opt for the former, Jen and her censorious posse get stripped of a great deal of power, and she and her monstrous racket get a well-deserved smackdown. Should they opt for the latter (the desired outcome of both Muslim and Jewish officaldom) and decide that, for the "greater good" it's okay to "censor" the Web (something that until now has occurred only in places--China, Iran--that spit on free speech), the censors will become a great deal more powerful. At least until the Supreme Court rules otherwise.

Then again, I've heard tell that certain blog hosts/Web servers have taken it upon themselves to censor, say, "Islamophoic" speech, so a bunch of Canucki parliamentarians weighing the question may well end up being moot.

Update: "We don't need to abolish Section 13. We just need to defy it every day." Right on, Kathy!


Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to put together a sample of 'prohibited' speech, or speech already fingered by the CHRC, in order to have it reproduced by a large number of bloggers? I think a sample document would get very widespread distribution in defiance of the Commission and Section 13.

I would certainly volunteer to print the offending material. And repeat printing it.

scaramouche said...

Kind of ard to put it together when the censors keep redacting it.