Net-borne porn reveals deeper trouble

by Kady O'Malley, komalley@arcpub.com

Its getting so you cant pick up a newspaper or magazine without reading of the horrors that can be found on the Internet. Hard-core pornography, violent imagery, pedophiles, white supremacists, its enough to make any decent parent keep the keyboard in the same sock drawer as the paperback Tropic of Cancer. And when an issue is clogging the editorial pages, its sure to come up in Question Period, the House of Commons version of prime-time entertainment.

Reform MP Garry Breitkreuz was the latest to sputter in outrage at the Justice Minister for not acting to stop this filth from sneaking across our border. Allan Rock replied that the Liberals have taken "concrete measures" and are "looking at specific measures we can take with the international community to deal with violence and pornography on the Internet". But according to Justice spokesperson Jennifer Lang, Canadians are not about to see a homegrown version of the Communications Decency Act that went down to humiliating judicial defeat in the U.S. earlier this year. "Were still in the planning stage", Lang says, pointing to work on this issue done by the blue-ribbon panel on the information highway, which operates under the aegis of Industry Canada.

Therein lies the crux of the matter. Industry may be au fait with the technological issues at hand, but there are more fundamental aspects to grapple with.

Freedom of speech, protection of data, and participatory democracy through increasingly universal access - all of these are planted firmly in the domain of the legal and political system as a whole.

As long as the government keeps discussing "the information highway" while appearing to ignore the realities at stake, no legislation on Net-related issues will be successful, in theory or practice.

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