New legislation in two U.S. states may have technicians surfing the Internet with their eyes shut for fear of criminal repercussions, but several Canadian lobbyists say such a law could help track down Internet predators.

An Illinois Republican is trying to pass legislation that would force the state’s computer technicians into reporting child pornography when they come across it on the Internet. Rep. James Durkin is trying to add computer technicians onto an Illinois law already requiring film developers to report any illicit material.

A similar law exists in South Carolina wherein computer technicians are required to report child pornography to law-enforcement officials when they find it during the course of their work. If the technicians fail to do so, they face possibility of a hefty fine.

In Canada, no law like this proposed amendment exists. “We don’t have the obligation,” said Lisette Lafontaine, senior counsel with criminal policy section of the federal Department of Justice. “Even the ISPs have no obligation to monitor their systems, but they cooperate with the police and if they find something, in most cases, they will report it. But it is not a criminal offence not to report it. It’s just your good citizenship.”

However, last March the department presented an Omnibus bill to Senate that would update some Canadian Internet and child pornography laws.

“We have created an offence of transmitting child pornography, which addresses one-to-one distribution,” Lafontaine said from Ottawa. Distributing child pornography is already an offence, but the old law does not address the act of sending it to only one other person.

“We have also created the offence of making available child pornography, and this will cover the people who do not transmit it but host it on a Web page,” she said. The provisions criminalize Internet luring and other new pornography charges, with a 10-year maximum penalty. There is a new charge of accessing child pornography, targeting someone who intentionally views it but doesn’t necessarily possess it.

“There is a new section that will allow a judge to order removal of alleged child pornography which is stored on a Canadian computer system and the order will be given to what is called the custodian of the computer system, which normally is the ISP,” Lafontaine said.

Even with these amendments, David Rutherford, senior consultant at Burlington, Ont.-based Application Enhancements, said he isn’t sure the political will in Canada is strong enough to consider the South Carolina model. “There would be a big fight to add something similar on, but it would definitely be welcome,” he said. “Anything we could do to stop this illegal activity would be a good thing.”

Alan K’necht, president of K’nechtology Inc., a Toronto-based Web site development company, said he certainly is offended by the presence of child pornography on the Internet. However, as a computer technician, he would resent being forced to report it when it crossed his path inadvertently.

“While I may condemn and disagree with the content of those sites, I don’t like any law forcing me to report them,” he said. “I think the government should legislate a body where the whole community could report them, which doesn’t exist right now.”

K’necht said an online reporting area where people could report illicit sites anonymously would be more effective.

Instead of looking to the law, Dolina Smith, president of Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation (CASE) in Toronto, said she blames the Internet entirely for the spread of child pornography in the last several years.

“Without the Internet, we wouldn’t have a child pornography problem,” she said. “The police claim that they had it pretty much under control before the Internet because they could trace where it was coming from because it followed a postage pattern.”

Smith said that computer technicians and everyone who uses the Internet are responsible for reporting child pornography when they inadvertently find it. That being said, Smith said she isn’t holding her breath until the problem goes away.

“(It will go on) until the service providers say they won’t put it on the Internet,” she said. “They say we can’t stop it but if you can develop the Internet then you have the technology to control what goes on it.”

K’necht said laws like the one proposed in Illinois would be almost unenforceable. What’s more, he added, this type of legislation just masks symptoms of a larger problem.

“If you want to eliminate child pornography on the Internet or anywhere, it has to be a global effort, not on a state-by-state basis,” he said. “If it is something that is produced and printed within our borders, the government could put a lot more money in to resolve the issue.

“The problem is, and this is what the vast amount of governments around the world fail to realize, that the Internet stands for the International Computer Network and the fact that someone sitting in Red Deer, Alta., decides to surf a site created in the Antilles, which has no regulation, well, who broke what law?”

Application Enhancements in Brampton, Ont., is at http://www.aei.on.ca/contact.html.

The federal Department of Justice is at http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/index.html.

Canadians Addressing Sexual Exploitation (CASE) in Toronto, is at http://www.c-a-s-e.net/.

Knechtology Inc. in Toronto is at http://www.knechtology.com/.



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