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Quebec introduces website blocking legislation

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The Government of Quebec has introduced its website blocking legislation. The intention is to have ISPs in Quebec compelled to block a set of gambling  sites, which list will be drawn up by the Regie des loteries:

“260.35. The Société des loteries du Québec shall oversee the
accessibility of online gambling. It shall draw up a list of unauthorized online
gambling sites and provide the list to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des
jeux, which shall send it to Internet service providers by registered mail.

“260.36. An Internet service provider that receives the list of unauthorized
online gambling sites in accordance with section 260.35 shall, within 30 days
after receiving the list, block access to those sites.

Penalties are not specified in the statute, but we can have little doubt they will exist.


“260.37. If the Société des loteries du Québec becomes aware that an
Internet service provider is not complying with section 260.36, it shall report
the non-compliance to the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux.
In such a case, the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux shall send a
notice to the non-compliant Internet service provider and send a copy of the
notice to the Société des loteries du Québec.

The stated intention in the earlier budget papers was to draw traffic to the Quebec gambling monopoly's website, to the exclusion of all others.

In my earlier piece on this topic, "We need a futile gesture at this stage", in June of this year, I wrote about the futility of blocking measures. Your own experience with the ubiquity of VPNs (virtual private networks), and the ease with which VPNs may be used to subvert intellectual property blocking by say, Netflix, ought to warn policy makers of the futility of such attempts to channel consumption to government-approved sites. I wrote:

 

Let us leave aside the hypocrisy of a government trying to confer a monopoly on itself, on ground that its websites promoting vice are morally superior to the websites of others promoting the same vice. Here we observe the state seeking to erect an architecture of censorship in the name of increased revenue. [When China or Iran tries to do this sort of thing, we cry foul.]

The important thing for governments to understand is that an architecture of censorship is both complicated to establish, expensive for ISPs to try to maintain, possibly ruinously expensive for them, burdensome to an economy in widespread and unforeseen ways, and futile. Censorship adds to the costs of communicating across the Internet, both in terms of increased costs of running an ISP and in legal fees to deal with prosecutions. These must inevitably be passed along to consumers. For smaller ISPs, these additional costs may drive them out of business.

More than this expense and legal risk to ISPs however, such measures drive consumers to evasive measures which are freely available, render law enforcement more difficult as the Internet grows more opaque, and, at the limit, may break the Internet in ways that even the Chinese government does not attempt – and the Chinese know lots about censoring the Internet.

 

I trust that a storm of opposition will arise from the same sorts of people who were aroused by Internet usage-sensitive pricing, as this is not a generalized attack through higher prices for carriers, but direct censorship of the Internet in order to establish a regulated on-line gambling monopoly. Quebec's is not a noble cause. In any case, whether or not political opposition arises, the constitutional case is clear. This measure is beyond the jurisdiction of the government of Quebec, as it invades federal jurisdiction over telecommunications, and probably offends civil rights laid out the Charter itself.

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Timothy Denton is a lawyer by training who practices principally in telecommunications and Internet policy and domain name issues, with a strong concentration on explaining what the technology is and what it means.

Comments

  • Guest
    Jean-François Mezei Friday, 13 November 2015

    Penalties of up to $100,000 are already in place in the Loi de Protection du Consmmateur (doubles if repeated offences). Clauses 279 as I recall in the LPC.

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Guest Wednesday, 18 September 2019
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