Bill S-210 Threatens Canadians’ Access to the Internet  Thumbnail
Strengthening the Internet 30 May 2024

Bill S-210 Threatens Canadians’ Access to the Internet 

By Ryan PolkDirector, Internet Policy

On Monday, 21 May, a Canadian Parliamentary Committee debated Bill S-210, which is meant to restrict young persons’ online access to sexually explicit material. While the Bill was intended to prevent children from seeing pornography online, Canadian politicians and government ministers noted with concern that, in its current form, Bill S-210 would require sites like Netflix to introduce age verification and make it illegal for Canadians under the age of 18 to watch shows like Bridgerton—due to the legal definition of sexually explicit material. As a Bridgerton fan myself, it’s unsurprising that this revelation was met with great concern!  

However, what the Members of Parliament failed to mention is that the broad scope of the legislation would have even more serious consequences for Internet users. As written, Bill S-210 wouldn’t just force Netflix to potentially scan its users’ faces to determine their age before watching Bridgerton Season 3; it could stop Canadians from being able to access Netflix at all!  

The Bill covers Internet intermediaries, like network operators, and gives them the impossible task of verifying the age of their users against the data flowing across their networks. As the majority of Internet traffic is encrypted, including Netflix, these Internet intermediaries cannot gain access to the contents of the data flowing across their networks.

Internet intermediaries will have to convince users and websites to send their data in an unencrypted form, which would be a departure from widely accepted security best practices, or they may have to refuse to carry encrypted traffic over their services. This means that unless Netflix begins sending its data unprotected across the Internet, network operators in Canada may be forced to refuse to carry Netflix traffic to Canadian citizens.  

Beyond Netflix, Bill S-210 would take away access to much of the Internet from Canadian citizens. Any part of the Internet still left accessible would be unsafe and age-gated. How can Canadians feel safe shopping online, communicating with healthcare providers, or even running online businesses if their data will be out in the open for anyone to steal, alter, or otherwise misuse? The consequences would be dire.  

There are several more in the Bridgerton clan in need of spouses, and while the rest of the world gets to watch what happens next, unless Bill S-210 is amended, Canadians might end up missing out entirely. But if Bill S-210 passes, missing the next season of Bridgerton will be the least of Canadians’ worries.  

That’s why it’s critical that we stand up for the Internet in Canada. If you are in Canada, please write your Member of Parliament and tell them why they need to reject Bill S-210 and keep Canada connected. Take action today.  


Image © Jason Hafso on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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