Canadian ISPs Look to Ban Porn Sites Without Going to Court

Michael Hayes
TORONTO — A proposal at the Canadian Telecom Summit could pave the way for Internet service providers to remove objectionable websites, including those that contain pornography, without having to engage in protracted legal engagements with site operators.

In a speech to the Canadian Telecom industry, which included managers from major ISPs like Rogers, Cogeco and Sympatico, Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, put his finger on the crux of the problem. ISPs that want to do something about objectionable material like hate speech and porn cannot remove sites without those sites first being declared illegal in a court of law, Farber told the crowd.

"This is a commercial business,” Farber said. “A newspaper doesn't have to accept every letter to the editor and an ISP doesn't have to accept everybody as a customer if they choose not to. It doesn't take a lot to discern what is pornographic and what is hate.”

While Farber considered his plan to be well received, he did concede that customers and website operators might object to the private regulation of content. For that, he offered a blunt response: “Let them sue you.”

Under the current system, ISPs post warnings regarding offensive content, but as Farber pointed out, such warnings are meaningless unless enforced.

According to Farber, ISPs need only develop a protocol for removing offensive content without court approval.