The Ottawa Sun
Wednesday, November 13, 1996

ISPs adopt industry code of conduct

by Rob Hall, rob@shop.net

A week ago the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) released its code of conduct on how member ISPs should behave in certain circumstances.

For a few years, Internet service providers have been asking questions of the RCMP and other authorities in regards to what they consider to be illegal content on the Net.

the answer received from authorities was often troublesome. There were no laws that applied directly to the Internet. Existing laws would probably apply, but there were no test cases that had been brought before the courts.

As to who had jurisdiction, it appeared that any police force, from the RCMP down to the local municipality, could lay charges.

This caused most ISPs to fear that a local police force could press charges against an ISP and impound equipment without really understanding the concepts involved.

For national ISPs such as Hookup and iStar, this could potentially spell disaster. Should equipment be impounded, even for a short period, users and businesses across Canada could be cut off.

After meeting with the RCMP computer crime division, CAIP devised a code of conduct to help guide its members in these situations.

It was obvious the RCMP were understaffed to perform any type of serious Internet investigation with only three officers in the division.

CAIP set up a committee to study the problem, and released a seven-point code of conduct. This is the first attempt ever at a group of ISPs joining together in an effort to self-regulate themselves. Rather than have absurd laws shoved down their throats, these ISPs are attempting to put into place rules that make sense for the online community.

Basically, the code of conduct protects the rights of all users, but also enforces all the laws of Canada. It provides a mechanism for a complaint-driven process. There is so much information on the Net that ISPs could not possibly watch it all, but if something is brought to their attention, and their legal counsel feels it is illegal, the information will be removed.

The complete text of the code can be found at www.caip.ca along with a list of all ISPs that are members of CAIP.

Last week in Ottawa, a local ISP confronted just these issues. Information Gateway Systems (IGS) had a user put up a web page comparing Lucien Bouchard to Hitler. The authorities felt that these pages could be construed as hate literature. IGS immediately removed the pages from its servers. Although IGS is not a member of CAIP, it followed the code of conduct almost letter for letter.

Ask your ISP if it is a member of CAIP and subscribes to the code of conduct. If not, encourage them to join. Only by all ISPs banding together and agreeing can the Internet become a safer place for kids to surf.


Copyright © 1996 by the Ottawa Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.