A new proposed federal law would make it a crime to distribute
"intimate images" without the consent of the subject of
those images; however, the new law would also create new police
powers and procedures that go well beyond the context of
cyberbullying to cover a broad range of online activity associated
with other crimes. The breadth of the cyberbullying offence
may also raise concerns for news media about possible criminal
liability for reporting certain stories.
In fact the bill, introduced as Bill C-13 and entitled the Protecting Canadians from Online CrimeAct, appears to resurrect many of the
provisions from the last incarnation of the failed lawful access bill,
Bill C-30. Bill C-13 seems to reintroduce much of what
had been Part 2 of the earlier bill, including many of the proposed
new and amended powers respecting the preservation and production
of various types of electronic data, including the provision by
telecommunications service providers of transmission or metadata
associated with electronic communications, as well as setting out
the procedures through which these orders would be obtained.
The new bill also reintroduces the provision from the previous
bill that would allow police to obtain from a judge an order
allowing for the tracking of an individual's movements or
location by tracking any device carried or worn by the individual,
including their wireless phone. Similarly, the bill would
allow for the issuance of an order authorizing the use of a
tracking device to track the location or movements of a thing,
including a vehicle.
Significantly, the new bill does not contain the two most
contentious provisions from Bill C-30: the requirement that
telecommunications service providers ensure that their networks and
services are capable of interception by law enforcement and
national security agencies, and the requirement that
telecommunications service providers provide those agencies with a
range of customer identifying information on request, without a
warrant. Significant public opposition to these aspects of
the previous bill caused the government to withdraw Bill C-30
earlier this year, further indicating that it would not be
resurrecting those controversial provisions.
The new cyberbullying offences appear to be primarily targeted
at online intimidation and harassment by individuals or groups,
such as through viral circulation of images through social
media. By criminalizing this behaviour, and making such
offences subject to penalties of up to 5 years in jail, the new
offences will, for many, be welcome additions to the Criminal
However, the breadth and vagueness of the new cyberbullying
offence will also no doubt raise serious concerns for media, since
news reports containing somewhat vaguely defined "intimate
images" may violate the law, unless that reporting
"serves the public good", as determined by the courts,
regardless of the motives of the reporter or media outlet.
It is expected that these and other issues will be raised during
debate and legislative committee consideration of the proposed
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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