MP Joy Smith's Internet filtering proposal threatens freedom of expression

TORONTO, Dec. 13, 2013 /CNW/ - PEN Canada expressed concern today that Winnipeg MP Joy Smith's private member's bill would unreasonably limit access to the Internet, creating a new threat to freedom of expression in Canada.  The bill would require Canadians who wish to opt out of system-wide filtering for material deemed to be pornographic to register this preference with their Internet Service Provider (ISP).

"Canadians have the right to access information without seeking permission, either from a government authority, or from a vendor of information services," said William Kowalski, chair of PEN Canada's National Affairs Committee. "It is not appropriate for the government or any ISP to document which households access which kinds of information."

PEN Canada believes that unrestricted access to the Internet should remain the default option for Canadians, and that the government should not play any role in vetting which online content is appropriate for the public.

PEN Canada believes it is improper, and impractical, to assume that technology designed to limit access to objectionable content can do so without inadvertently limiting access to other material that falls outside the scope of the bill.  Canadians who prefer to forgo access to certain material should implement their choices privately, at the level of individual households, rather than impose a system-wide restriction as the proposed bill seeks to do.

PEN Canada recognizes that MP Smith's proposal is intended to protect children from harms that may be linked to online pornography. PEN in no way wishes to downplay concerns about the relationship between pornography, human trafficking, and other forms of exploitation. However, PEN believes that the proposed measures do not offer an effective solution to these problems, but rather create a new threat to freedom of expression in Canada.

PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right at home and abroad. PEN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada. www.pencanada.ca

SOURCE PEN Canada

For further information:

Juanita Bawagan, PEN Canada, JBawagan@pencanada.ca, 416-703-8448 ext. 21