Backgrounder: Protecting children from online sexual exploitation
The Government of Canada has proposed legislation that would enhance Canada's capacity to protect children against sexual exploitation by making it mandatory for those who supply an Internet service to report online child pornography. The legislation would help safeguard children by improving law enforcement's ability to detect offences and reduce the availability of child pornography on the Internet. In September 2008, federal/provincial/territorial ministers responsible for Justice agreed that Canada's response to child pornography could be enhanced by federal legislation.
Under the proposed legislation, suppliers of Internet services would be required to:
- report, to a designated agency, tips that they might receive regarding websites where child pornography may be available to the public; and,
- notify police and safeguard evidence if they believe that a child pornography offence has been committed using an Internet service that they provide.
The legislation was carefully tailored to achieve its objectives while minimizing the impact on the privacy of Canadians. Suppliers of Internet services would not be required to send personal subscriber information under this statute. The legislation was also tailored to limit access to child pornography and avoid creating new consumers of this type of material. Hence, nothing in this legislation would require or authorize a person to seek out child pornography.
Failure to comply with the duties under this proposed legislation would constitute an offence punishable by summary conviction with a graduated penalty scheme. For individuals (sole proprietorships), the maximum penalty would be a fine of $1,000 for a first offence; $5,000 for a second offence; and for third and subsequent offences $10,000 or six months imprisonment, or both. For corporations and other entities, maximum fines would be $10,000 for a first offence; $50,000 for a second offence; and $100,000 for third and subsequent offences.
Child pornography constitutes a serious form of child sexual exploitation. Not only are individual children abused and exploited in the making and viewing of child pornography, but the supply of and continuing demand for child pornography exploits and endangers all children by portraying them as objects for sexual gratification.
The Criminal Code's existing child pornography provisions prohibit all forms of making, distributing, making available, accessing and possessing child pornography, including through the use of the Internet.
ISPs and other providers of Internet services
The proposed legislation covers more than just "Internet service providers" or "ISPs", terms that are commonly used in relation to those who provide access to the Internet. The legislation would apply to all persons who provide an Internet service to the public. While this does include ISPs, it also includes those who provide electronic mail services, Internet content hosting services, and social networking sites.
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Department of Justice Canada
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