Tories Attempting To Stop ‘Revenge Porn’

intimacy

In following with this government’s new favourite hobby of advertising things that are yet to exist, Ottawa is warning teens not to commit a crime that is not yet a crime.

Over at GetCyberSafe.ca, the feds are warning kids not to share intimate images of each other, lest they incur the wrath of Criminal Code provisions that they’ve yet to pass through the House of Commons.

“What they do with their phones could be more than just wrong,” warns the deep-voiced narrator from its corresponding TV spot. “It could be illegal.”

Except, really, it couldn’t be.

In late 2013, Justice Minister Peter MacKay vowed to crack down on cyberbullying.  Well, in actuality, he vowed to criminalize the passing-on of intimate images — ‘revenge porn’ as it’s usually dubbed.  Embedded in that bill is also a whole slew of unnerving changes that allow cops to easily obtain metadata from Canadians’ cellphones and computers and provides immunity to any company that forks over users’ data to the police, who don’t need a warrant to view it.  It also criminalizes advocating for the end of the state of Israel.

Calling it a cyberbullying bill is a bit of stretch.

I wrote about that here.

So, before the bill has even made it through the House, the government is launching a campaign to advertise it.  A little presumptuous, really.  (This isn’t the first time it’s happened — the Tories were also mocked for advertising a federal job grant that didn’t yet exist.)

But, even if it borders on some TimeCop weirdness, the core of the bill has been lauded as a pretty good idea — passing off an intimate image of someone without their consent should probably be illegal.  There are only two current provisions that could deal with these situations — child porn, which is a pretty extreme remedy, and voyeurism, which only applies in limited cases.  In light of the suicide of Retaeh Parsons, it seems logical.

Yet the TV ad also signifies a worrying tenet of the bill — every teen who forwards one of these ‘intimate images’ could be liable for prosecution, even if they didn’t know that the original image was shared without consent.  If it goes viral, say, or winds up on a porn site, the amount of teenagers who recklessly turn themselves into criminals would be exponential.

While those 15 year-old perverts in the commercial might be contemptuous miscreants, there’s been quite a bit of nervousness about throwing them in prison.

Weird, too, is that this government has long been reticent to criminalize bullying — when Liberal Hedy Fry introduced C-273 to add cyberbullying to the Criminal Code, the Conservatives joined the NDP in quietly shooting it down, worried about the implications of trying to lock teens up for how they speak to each other online.

Now the government is treading a line — their new campaign notes that there are numerous provisions that could be used to go after bullies, as well as specific provincial legislation.  But they haven’t tried to clarify or specify the rules, aside from adding provisions barring revenge porn.  So, on one hand, they’ve refused to create specific bullying laws because they could be too onerous, but on the other, they’re warning teens that they could be charged with the hefty offence of criminal harassment.

All that aside, I’m personally sort of confused about the government’s advice to parents on how to tell if their kids are secretly cyberbullying.

The guide includes such warning signs as: “your child has a large number of social networking accounts on multiple sites, which may be a sign they’re using accounts to harass others” and “your child becomes secretive about their online activity: they quickly change the screen or hide their mobile device if you interrupt them and may become annoyed when you walk in on them.”

Sounds like every teenager ever, if you ask me.

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Other articles by Justin Ling

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Flaherty’s Last Act

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Follow Justin Ling on twitter: @Justin_Ling

 

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