A weekend explosion in which a 15-year-old boy lost fingers and suffered extensive damage to his face underscores the issue of young people's access to dangerous information on the Internet.
The boy was injured when a bomb he had made from instructions he got on the Internet exploded in his hands. Police say no charges will be laid against the teen-ager, who was in stable condition yesterday in a Calgary hospital, where he was transferred after Saturday night's blast.
The boy had unsuccessfully tried to ignite the bomb's fuse and was checking it when it exploded in an open field. Police say the boy and his friends, who were uninjured, were not intending to hurt anyone or cause property damage.
"I guess he fooled with it a bit and, bang, it just went off", Constable Dan Doyle of the Red Deer RCMP said, adding that the bomb was made using an empty carbon-dioxide canister filled with toy rocket powder.
During their investigation, police found computer printouts at the boy's house explaining how to make bombs.
The Globe and Mail was able to gain access in about one minute to several Web sites offering recipes to make not only simple bombs, but also atomic weapons.
Police said preventing people from gaining access to information such as bomb-making instructions is difficult because there are no laws governing Internet content.
"I suppose there's a price that you have to pay for democracy", Constable Doyle said. "If we elect officials to go and make laws, I suppose it's something that could be brought up with the elected officials."
The Canadian Association of Internet Providers has a voluntary code of conduct for its members that states: "CAIP members will not knowingly host illegal content."
The association's director, John Nemanic, said he believes that Canadian Internet service providers who provide access to illegal information that originates from Canada should be disciplined.
"If they don't do anything about it, there is a very clear issue of liability and the provider should be held responsible."
The weekend incident is similar to one in Calgary last May. A teen-aged boy lost part of his thumb while building a bomb using instructions he found on the Internet.
Preventing such injuries comes through education and not regulation of the Internet, said David Jones, a computer science professor at McMaster University in Hamilton and president of Electronic Frontier Canada, a group defending freedom of expression and the right to privacy in cyberspace.
"Boys have been playing with things that go boom since before the Internet", Prof. Jones said.