Censorship

Canada Claims Authority to Censor Your Internet Searches

Not Canadian? Not in Canada? It doesn't matter, according to its supreme court.

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Censorship
George Tsartsianidis

The Canadian Supreme Court today ruled the country has the authority to demand Google censor and remove links to certain web pages or online content.

The idea that governments can force Google to deindex links to pages is unfortunately not new (see the European Union's "right to be forgotten"). What matters internationally in this case is the government is forcing Google to remove links from searches regardless of where the Internet user is. That is to say: Canada is demanding the authority to censor the internet outside of its physical borders and control what people who are not Canadian citizens can find online.

Today's court ruling declares that because the Internet doesn't have any borders, when Canada decides Google has to censor content it should be a global order: "The Internet has no borders — its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates — globally."

The case involves copyright and intellectual property claims. A tech firm was accusing another firm of stealing and duplicating one of its products and selling it online. Google was asked to deindex the links to the firm accused of stealing so that it wouldn't show up in search results. Google complied with court orders, but only for searches from within Canada.

Canada's Supreme Court sees geographical limits (even virtual ones) on its ability to censor speech as "facilitating" illegal commerce rather than a speech issue. Here's a paragraph from the ruling that should give folks pause:

This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods.

Canada has hate speech laws. Does it follow that Canada should require Google to deindex pages containing what it deems "hate speech" in the United States? If Canada does not because it acknowledges limits to its reach as a nation is it "facilitating" something unlawful?

The court notes Google removes links due to court orders based on content and still doesn't seem to see an issue in a country's boundary of authority:

[Google] acknowledges, fairly, that it can, and often does, exactly what is being asked of it in this case, that is, alter search results. It does so to avoid generating links to child pornography and websites containing "hate speech". It also complies with notices it receives under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2680 (1998) to de-index content from its search results that allegedly infringes copyright, and removes websites that are subject to court orders.

The court, in justifying its ruling, is unwittingly bringing up problems with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA is intended as a tool for fight online piracy and intellectual property theft by making it easier to remove copyrighted material through an ownership claim process. It is also prone to abuse.

People abuse the DMCA's "take down" process in order to try to censor speech, critiques or commentary, they find objectionable. It can be as minor as trying to censor critical video game reviews, or extend as far as criticizing another country's leaders. Ecuadorian officials once attempted to use the DMCA to censor criticism of government actions. Google itself has stepped in to try to help users fend off abusive DMCA take-down requests.

Invoking other forms of legally recognized internet censorship is not, perhaps, the defense Canada's Supreme Court is looking for. A closer examination highlights the potential for abuses. And claiming the authority to censor Google links everywhere in the world is a decision begging to be abused.

Read the court's ruling here. France has attempted similar international censorship methods.

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  1. Ask Kim Dotcom about the US claim to global jurisdiction.

    1. The Mounties also claim global jurisdiction. I look forward to the news footage of dudes on horseback hauling away various basement dwellers from around the world.

      1. Meh, their horses are smarter than they are.

      2. Yeah…….if they show up at my door claiming ‘jurisdiction’, it won’t end well for them.

  2. Christ, what assholes, eh?

    1. They better apologize right now.

    2. They better apologize right now.

      1. Yea, they better apologize twice because they’re Canadian.

        1. They have to apologise once in English and once in French.

  3. Y’know the Canadian Supreme Court has made its ruling, eh? Now let ’em enforce it.

    1. Well, they could fine them a couple of Billion dollars.

      1. They could and then I would file suit in the USA against Canada for violating my Constitutional right to free speech and ask for Billions of US dollars.

        Lets play!

        1. I’ll join. then we can go all class action on their ass.

    2. As long as Google has operations in Canada, the Canadians have leverage.

      1. Fine, pull out of Canada. They pulled out of China.

        1. Pulling out is not the most fool proof method to avoid problems down the road.

      2. Yep. Corporations are all about the money.

        Without organized and continuous opposition to this kind of stuff, Google will cave. Always. It’s just much easier.

  4. Hosers.

    1. Oooohh, beauty, eh?

  5. Of course, the implications of that is that internet is only as free as the most speech and press restrictive country. Why should Canada be spe c ial in impoding its censorship on a worldwide basis.

    Thanks so much for the hubris, Canaduan judicial system.

    1. Of course, the implications of that is that internet is only as free as the most speech and press restrictive country.

      This assumes broad freedom or somewhat random speech restrictions across borders. If one country can only send greetings and salutations, the next is free to respond to messages that are not greetings and salutations and the third can freely repeat communications originating from the other two, there’s not a lot of free internetting going on and it’s not exactly the fault of the backwater kleptocracy that only allows their citizens to say, “Hi!”

      N. Korea suddenly jumping on the internet doesn’t dramatically diminish the freedom of the internet as much as Canada announcing that they’re going to play by the same herp-a-derp rules defecated but unactionable in France. I *think* there was a time when the Nations of the world weren’t self-fellating enough to fall for this bullshit. Maybe entirely from lack of cognizance but still.

    1. funny.

  6. So does this set precident in Canada that other countries laws can now be enforced globally, thus Canada will accept them within their borders? What about a legal argument against the right to be forgotten by citing the US guarnteed right to free speech, which is confered by our humanity, and because humanities “natural habitat is global” It must be considered valid law in Canada. What about my right bare woodchippers?

  7. Open borders for people. Open borders for laws. I’m sure there are plenty of US citizens that would willingly import this ruling.

    1. You forgot open borders for guns too. I should be able to go anywhere I want with as many weapons as I want.

      1. Try carrying an RPG or a SAM down 16th street in DC toward Pennsylvania Avenue, and see how far you get….

        1. If I had a Russian made 9K35 Strela-10, I would get pretty far.

          You clearly never saw:
          Marvin Heemeyer

          or:
          San Diego tank rampage

          1. That tank video CLEARLY demonstrates that I should have a Constitutional right to own anti-tank missiles and A-10 “Warthog” warplanes, in order to defend myself!

  8. How about, “Fuck Off”?

    Wish Google said, ok, we are blacking out all of Canada. Get Fucked.

    1. “With regret, Google places the Dominion of Canada under Interdict.”

      1. A birthday gift for its sesquicentennial on Saturday.

  9. Canada, you can take your claim to control speech online. Roll it up real tight and shove it up your butt, eh.

  10. So where is the supposed libertarian respect for property rights? (i.e. the intellectual property that has been stolen here.) Is selling stolen property suddenly ok, that you folks are against preventing the seller from advertising the sale of this stolen property on the internet, and somehow calling that ‘censorship’?

    Or doesn’t intellectual property ‘count’ as ‘property’ under libertarian philosophy?

    So if I were to break into your house, and steal your property, and then put a post up on craigslist listing your property for sale, you would have no cause to demand that craigslist remove my listings, because I have some sort of ‘free speech’ right to advertise the product that I stole from you? Really? Wake up people.

    Seems like just another excuse to ‘Blame Canada’ to me. No different from Sheila Broflovski….

    1. Read the dissent. E never established that D was guilty of stealing his intellectual property. And even if E did establish that, by what authority can the Canadian Courts rule that they can force Google to not link to a company NO LONGER OPERATING IN CANADA. Not just Google.ca mind you.

      Is Google responsible for every web site that is shows up in a search?

      This isn’t a question about intellectual property rights. This is a question about the scope of a government’s power.

      1. This isn’t a question about intellectual property rights. This is a question about the scope of a government’s power.

        Yeah, this is idiotic trolling.

        Libertarians should be defending imaginary (literally and figuratively) property rights across any/all jurisdiction lines or else they obviously advocate outright material theft.

        Coulda saved some time and just wondered why, with this decision, libertarians aren’t rejoicing that Canada will finally be paving the roads in libertopia.

    2. And using your analogy:

      You break into my house, and take pictures of my property. You then go home and reverse engineer the same products. You then go to a different country and post ads selling said products on Craigslist.

      You are arguing that in this case, the US government can force Craigslist to delink ALL of your ads, everywhere you post them even though you aren’t even operating in the US, and maybe selling the products to people other than those in the US.

    3. Or doesn’t intellectual property ‘count’ as ‘property’ under libertarian philosophy?

      Depends on the libertarian you talk to.

      So if I were to break into your house, and steal your property, and then put a post up on craigslist listing your property for sale, you would have no cause to demand that craigslist remove my listings, because I have some sort of ‘free speech’ right to advertise the product that I stole from you? Really? Wake up people.

      As long as my property is returned to me, your listings on Craigslist is your business.

      If I steal your idea, take it to a country where you aren’t, for whatever reason, allowed to operate and sell it and either buy your business or sell my business to you as a subsidiary that allows you to operate. How is that fundamentally different than if you’d just employed me in the first place? If I discover a way to sell your product in a market that was previously unavailable I’ve effectively discovered intellectual property and deserve protection/compensation, no?

      You not only seem confused about libertarianism, but law in general. Craigslist has policies regarding the selling of stolen goods and generally, when they’re made aware of the nature of said goods, they honor their policies.

    4. Why would I remove the listings? Why wouldn’t I just send the police after you?

    5. “Or doesn’t intellectual property ‘count’ as ‘property’ under libertarian philosophy?”

      Hell no. No one really believes it is property anyway. Patents expire. Suddenly your “property” magically leaps from your arms into the public domain after 17 laps around the sun? Arbitrary nonsense.

      IP is a just a govt-created monopoly that trades protection of your business idea a while in exchange for sharing your ideas publicly after a fixed time, to hopefully promote faster progress overall. It has been totally warped into some kind of pseudo-moralistic bullshit, and of course corrupted into a way to protect entrenched firms (and enrich lawyers) via the courtroom.

  11. This will be fun.

    Couldn’t some repressive backwater country ban all porn or some other restricted activity on the internet and use the same justification to ban it worldwide? It’s the same logic (not banning speech, just illegal commerce) applied on the same scale.

    1. It beats being Mexico, which is America’s toilet.

  12. Canada is a bunch of pussies. We already knew that.

    1. So much temerity from America’s hat.

  13. This can’t be real. So Saudi Arabia can demand Search Engines censor its results and Canada would be 100% on board?

  14. A good response to the enforcement of this ruling would be: You and what army?

  15. I also subscribe to DCMA for my two websites: cool math games and clicker heroes

  16. [Google] acknowledges, fairly, that it can, and often does, exactly what is being asked of it in this case, that is, alter search results. It does so to avoid generating links to child pornography and websites containing “hate speech”.

    Good to know that Google puts ideological filters on its search results.

    Time to find a new search engine for political topics.

  17. Who cares? It’s not like Canadia is even a real place.

    Kidding aside, it appears the west’s decent to tyranny/despotism continues apace.

  18. So the Canadian courts will, I suppose, uphold demands that Canadian sites comply with Iranian laws regarding pornography and blasphemy.

  19. To quote the South Park movie: “Fuck Canada!”

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