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Bill C-11 attempts to tame the World Wild Web

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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Written by Chris Carr

Wyatt Earp was one of the first lawmen if the ol’ west. He was a gunfighter-turned-deputy who sought out thieves and murderers to bring order to the unsettled Kansas and later, Arizona. If you haven’t seen the movie Tombstone, you should. It’s about how Earp accomplished all this and became the, “toughest and deadliest gunman of his day.” That’s how stuff got done back then: a big cowboy boot would kick in the front door, the cold iron spinning six bullets around the room and a mustachioed man would tell you what you should be doing. If you were lucky, it was the police. That’s how the west was settled—by bullets, badges and bourbon. 

Not today though, the west has all been found and settled, owned and tamed. There are still guns and mustaches, but also Toddlers and Tiaras. The wild has been lobotomized from the west and with it goes any hint of new pioneering. All I can do now is read the Wikipedia article on Wyatt Earp, maybe grow a mustache, guns scare me anyway. 

But that’s just the place the “wild” has gone, to the internet. Since its inception, the internet has been a place of new pioneering. It’s a wild, infinite space that we are learning to use more and more with each passing tweet. We settled internet radio, banking, networking, communications, entertainment—all of this was previously undecided and unsettled (concerning internet applications). Now it is as easy as a simple click of the trigger, I mean, mouse. As it stands, the internet is settled in relatively small community like the towns of the old west. Come visit Facebook, best whiskey in the state! Pinterest has the best brothels, much higher caliber than Instagram. 

If you provide the destination, there will be those willing the settle and use that community. This has been the internet for the last 15 years, complete with its own specific memes, community dialect and laws. Well, maybe. Pirating is one of the chief practices of the internet age. Pirates run ramped like bandits on horseback. Up until recently there was a serious lack of a central government controlling the internet. 

Bill C-11 has recently passed the report stage and is currently heading for its third reading in the House of Commons, the final stage before being voted upon. As it stands, it looks like the bill will be passed allowing the Canadian government to apply “locks” to websites they deem as unacceptable. In essence, this loads the cannon trained on the pirate’s ship. It is Canada’s version of the American SOPA bill that was recently shelved after a mass online protest that involved shutting down key websites like Reddit, Digg and 4Chan. It allows the Canadian government to police the internet effectively circumventing any user’s freedom to access information. 

Now, Bill C-11 lobbyists will say that they are simply trying to protect the kids. It’s true that the bill will allow the Canadian government to ban sites that are unsuitable for minors and stop any illegal, prejudiced and oppressive sites from reaching the masses. However, the problem with this is that with this comes supremacy over internet content, wholesale. So along with piracy being locked out, it is possible for the government to lock out anything they simply don’t like. This is what makes Bill C-11 so dangerous. I, for one, have lived a long time without an older brother, I don’t need one now. 

Bill C-11 is Wyatt Earp, coming in, guns a-blazin’ and telling you to sit down and shut up. It is an attempt at taming the world wild web. It’s big government bringing law to a system that self-regulates and only acts as a conduit for information, nothing else. The Wild West can be a scary place, especially for those who don’t know what they are doing. And that is the problem, the legislature is being decided by people who only just learned about twitter—or just learned to ride a horse—and think they know what is best for the internet users. The term “users” is even too finite since inevitably the internet will infect every facet of our life, just like the settlements of the west. Trying to govern that kind of thing can only result in two possible outcomes: total control by the government over information or revolution. My inner gunfighter hopes for the latter.

Chris Carr is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Inordinate Ordnance publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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