POLITICS

Joy Smith, Tory MP, Wants Canada To Pursue Porn Block For Web Users

07/23/2013 11:27 EDT

Conservative MP Joy Smith would like Canada to follow the lead of the United Kingdom and install a "porn block" for all web users.

On Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he is asking Internet service providers to restrict access to different kinds of pornographic websites that are "corroding childhood."

He also wants to make it illegal to possess violent porn that portrays rape, and has called on search engines to block queries for illegal content.

The controversial plan would require Internet customers wanting to access pornography to explicitly opt-out of safety filters web companies would be required to install.

Smith told The Toronto Star's Julian Sher the "bold" idea could help crack down on child pornography. The newspaper called Smith an influential backbencher with the ear of the prime minister who has successfully pushed for tougher laws concerning child exploitation and human trafficking.

"Absolutely I will flag this to the prime minister," she told the Star. "I would see this as the next step and it just goes along with what we have been trying to do for some time."

ISPs did agree to working with the non-profit Canadian Centre for Child Protection in implementing Project Cleanfeed in 2007, which blocks websites hosting child pornography.

But Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, told The Canadian Press that partnership was easier to undertake because the content being blocked was already illegal.

"In these kinds of initiatives you have to separate child pornography from other forms of pornography and that's because to view child pornography itself is illegal. It's different once you get into other forms of pornography that many may find offensive but under a system of robust freedom of speech and freedom of expression remain perfectly legal," Geist said.

Any pursuit of a plan similar to the U.K. porn block could trigger questions about privacy and freedom of expression, much like the controversial and much-maligned Internet surveillance legislation once pushed by Conservatives.

Bill C-30, the so-called Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, was introduced by Tories in 2012 but abandoned less a year later after public outcry.

The legislation would have forced ISPs to maintain systems that allowed cops to intercept and track online communications. It also would have provided warrantless access to Internet subscriber information, including name, address, telephone number, email address and Internet protocol address.

The proposed legislation infuriated privacy and civil liberties advocates, scholars, even conservative libertarians wary of so-called "Big Brother" government oversight.

In 2012, then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews infamously told a Liberal MP who questioned the legislation he could "either stand with us or stand with the child pornographers."

Do you think this is something the Harper government should pursue? Tell us in the comments.

With files from The Canadian Press

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