Oh, Canada

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/carol-todd/cyberbullying-bill-_b_4335740.html

Oh dear. It’s not that I really want to offend a whole nation. I mean – why add an entire country to the never-ending list of people who hate me? But Canada – just what the heck are you doing?

Let’s put the lovely Rob Ford to one side – every country has its buffoons. But your country – well, your politicians and Press – are looking ever more foolish by the minute. And the Amanda Todd story has not helped. Where did you go wrong?

Somehow or other, you’ve allowed the likes of Carol Todd and Glen Canning to become some sort of folk heroes, when they are not. To a certain extent, the world looked to you for a response to cyber-bullying and online extortion, and you failed miserably. You had the two big poster girls – Rehteah Parsons and Amanda Todd. You had the opportunity to take the ball and run with it, to show how a civilised country can meet the challenges of the 21st century – and you blew it.

First mistake? To take the Todd and Parsons story and to treat them as if they were much the same. They are not. They are completely different – the Todd story being one of misleading discrepancies, of a child allowed to run riot in real life and online, and of woeful inadequacies shown by all those who should have protected her; the Parsons story being more about misfortune – a girl who got drunk, and who was taken advantage of in a terrible way.

Second mistake? Ignoring the experts. Very early on, people who were aware of all these problems, people who had studied hard and had worked with cases like these, were all turned away. Instead, Carol Todd – essentially a low-level teacher with ideas well beyond her ability – was made into the fount of all knowledge regarding child care. Someone who had failed at so many levels started to win awards, to be praised and lauded. Years of expert advice from around the globe regarding suicides, suicide ideation, and how to deal with the aftermath, were thrown aside and replaced with knee-jerk and populist responses. I dread to think of the damage done to young children since the beginning of this fiasco.

And now we have the latest mistake. Carol Todd (perhaps one of the most deluded people on the planet, and definitely one of the most politically and socially naive) and others have been taken for a ride by the government in the ‘Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act’ – possibly one of the worst attempts at a new Law that I have ever seen. Just how many times throughout the last year have I said ‘It’s a disgrace’?

There is absolutely nothing that will protect children in this Law – nothing at all. It would have been easy to insist that porn suppliers at least make online verification tougher – with credit card or driving licence proof of age. There is no mention of holding sites like Omegle responsible for any online activity that might endanger children, and no onus on the ISPs to try and filter anything. And perhaps more importantly, there was no hint at making parents more responsible for the actions of their offspring. I can’t help but think that if parents were to share the blame for their children’s misbehaviour, they might spend a little more time bothering about how they bring up their offspring.

However, let’s deal with what is there. No spreading of intimate images. Pathetic. At an adult level…well, pish! If an adult is stupid enough to share ‘intimate images’ online, then part of me thinks they are simply too stupid to be worthy of consideration. The Tara Murphy pictures show stupidity at the highest level. (Personally, I would introduce a new Law to protect Canadians from themselves – the ‘Don’t be stupid’ law. However, locking up half the Canadian populace might be a problem. Maybe make them Toronto councillors.)

The spreading of intimate pictures is aimed at the Rehteah Parsons case. However, think about the scenarios it kicks off.

Kid X takes a picture of a girl. At this point, he becomes a child-pornographer. Aged 13-16, he becomes one of the most hated types of criminal. Except he’s not. He’s just acting on the spur of the moment, doing what a ton of kids have done, and will no doubt continue to do. But there are laws to cover that. This new law starts with the picture being distributed. So the kid sends it to a friend; a friend sends it to another friend. Except even that doesn’t happen. It goes to many friends, then on to many more. Within minutes, hundreds of people can be in on the act. Are they all guilty? Or just the first person? Or the second person? If the first person is guilty of initiating it, are all his friends and his friends’ friends accessories?

So you track down the individual. Then what? He says ‘She gave her permission’ or ‘She was up for it’. His pals agree. Ah ha! No defence. If the girl is under 18, she is deemed incapable of giving permission. So the boy is up the creek. Or is he? Well, if he is under 18, as is the case in so many of these instances, he will still be seen as a child, also incapable of making rational decisions. The lawyers will have a great time dealing with these cases.

The huge mistake of this Law was to assume that all the likely perpetrators are over 18, and that’s simply not the case. We’re dealing with kids 11 years of age and up, not with the general public.

Now on to the Amanda Todd fiasco. The ‘intimate images’ doesn’t really apply, and with the convoluted story, it would still be damned difficult to make a case. We know that Amanda broadcast herself, but that is cleared as OK because she was under 18 and therefore legally incapable of knowing what she was doing. There were already pre-existing laws concerning child pornography and its distribution  that would have covered most of the problems involved here.

Would this Law have helped? No at all. Imagine that Amanda was doing it now. Nothing much has changed. I still find it odd that Amanda would be seen as doing nothing wrong, but that’s another source of infinite arguing. But anyway – Amanda’s online, doing whatever. Immediately, any viewers are deemed criminal. For some reason, the facilitators like BlogTV(YouNow) and Omegle are untouchable. That’s fair enough. There are already laws to cover all of this activity. But it didn’t stop Amanda back then, and it wouldn’t now. Most of the viewers would be hidden behind aliases, some of the more experienced ones would use proxies. But again, the Law doesn’t kick in until distribution.

So what’s the case here? The initial distributors would be BlogTV and Omegle and the likes, yet they seem to escape each time. ‘Wot us, guv? We are just tryin’ to carry on our innocent business’. Sickening.  So the government conveniently overlooks the webcam channels. So who is guilty?

Complicated. At this point, all of Amanda’s viewers were guilty of a crime. So who is the distributor? In a way, it was Amanda; in another, it was the webcam site provider. So the distributor is the person who put the video on to the porn site? But who was that? I have my suspicions that BlogTVand Omegle feed the sites for income. Was it them? For goodness sake, we don’t even know if it was Amanda herself. So it could have been any one of her hundreds of viewers. Almost impossible to track. But even assume that it was one person, where do you stop? Amanda’s video was picked up by other people – in her own words she says her friends found the pics. Was the first sender of the link guilty? The second? The hundredth? Or all of them? All of Amanda’s friends are, under Law, not only child-pornographers but now distributors. See the impossibility of it all? For God’s sake, even the Fifth Estate could have been penalised – they showed images of Amanda without her permission, and at least one that falls under the latest Draconian porn definitions.

So let’s take it down the line. Amanda puts her pic online; someone puts her pics on a porn site; loads of people distribute the pics. Months later, someone finds the picture online. The picture is now so common and public that no claim to being a ‘distributor’ can be made. Yet another big pay-day for lawyers.

And just don’t forget. Throughout this story we can totally guarantee that the majority of those involved were minors, so we’re back to square one again. Can minors really be held responsible for their stupid actions?

So it’s one gigantic balls up. The comments on the latest Carol Todd Huffington Post show how badly it’s all been taken. Carol Todd’s urge for fame and her delusional belief that she is God’s gift to child care expertise has allowed her daughter’s story to be used badly by the politicians.  Fantastic – roll out a crappy Law, attach the Todd and Parsons name to it, everyone’s happy!

This legislation won’t save kids. Seriously, if anything it will make things worse. It will make criminals of young people for stupid acts of youthfulness; it will make more people use proxies and anonymity; kids will hide their activities even more, thinking that the once-innocent flashing will see them in prison; SnapChat will become even more popular. Amanda entered her age as 21 on two sites, so kids will just lie about their age even more. The idiot of the century still writes ‘If the police were given more guidelines and training back then, they could have done their job in looking in the right places for the perpetrator who took the photo’ when we know it wasn’t a photo and it wasn’t ‘the perpetrator’ – it was a bunch of kids.

Of course, I was on the side of one commenter: ‘yes, let’s make your failure of parenting the problem of every canadian citizen, whether they have children or not. ‘

But this Law is a waste of time, and I suspect it will be thrown out quite rapidly. Get with it, Canada, the rest of the world is beginning to laugh at you!

Addition:

http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/canada/story/1.2440785

“I would hate for the public to be misled into thinking that this is what will deal with cyberbullying, because I think it’s [only] a partial approach,” says Jane Bailey, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.’

‘“When it comes to the social fallout that Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons suffered from their peers, most of the time, they knew who those people were,” says Slane.’

‘The problem with the bill, says Bailey, is that it focuses on criminal and punitive measures instead of the attitudes and actions of cyberbullies themselves.’

‘Legislators need to have “a better understanding of how young people are thinking these days,” says Shariff. “This has become simply part of their communication, especially when they’re teenagers.”

2 thoughts on “Oh, Canada

  1. I stumbled across your blog a few days ago. I was procrastinating – I hate homework. I remembered all this stuff about Amanda Todd from last year (I had completely forgotten about her) and reading everything you had to say put it all in perspective for me. I had always thought that her story was very touching, that she made a mistake any young person could have made and had to face terrible consequences for it. But I had never asked myself what her parents were doing about it. I mean, really! It’s common sense to not let your kids keep getting into trouble like that! So, this was just a passing comment to thank you for your research. And yeah, I’m tempted to say you know absolutely too much about this case, but you know what? I’m glad you do 🙂

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment as you passed through. It is indeed a touching story, but also one that is very complex. It’s a shame that all the issues were never fully examined – especially the role of the parents and the disastrous influence of sites like BlogTV(YouNow) and Omegle and so on.
      Nearly all the information was available online – it was just a case of having to closely look for clues and get as much information as possible. Perhaps you wouldn’t be surprised how open people leave themselves to finding out personal details (like Tara Murphy) but I should convey my gratitude to a couple of helpers, Roy in particular.
      So yeah, people have hinted that I know too much but I can tell you it’s down to hard work and a touch of obsession, that’s all.
      I’m glad you find it interesting.

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