Future Tense

Canadian Politician Using Grisly Murder To Promote Internet Surveillance Bill

Cracking down on child pornographers has previously been used as the emotive justification for new Internet surveillance powers authorities want legislated in Canada. Now a video posted online apparently showing a horrific murder underlines the need for new laws to regulate the Internet, according to a Canadian government minister.

Late last month, Edmonton-based website BestGore.com controversially published an 11-minute video entitled “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick.” The video is believed to depict the brutal killing of Chinese student Lin Jun, who was allegedly decapitated and dismembered by Luka Magnotta, a 29-year-old Canadian porn actor arrested in Germany last week after an international manhunt.

Not long after the video was published, a Canadian lawyer said police should lay charges against Best Gore on obscenity grounds. Academic Michael Kempa, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, agreed, telling told Postmedia News it was a crime to post violent and graphic footage of an indictable offence.

But Canada’s public safety minister Vic Toews seems to disagree. Yesterday he weighed into the debate on CTV’s Question Period Sunday, saying that prosecution of Best Gore was difficult because existing law “doesn’t really correspond well to the modern technology.” Toews added that strengthening the ability to prosecute individuals for posting obscene content on the Internet would be part of the ongoing discussion about Canada’s C-30 Bill, which is expected to be reviewed by a parliamentary committee in the fall. The main focus of C-30 is to enhance authorities’ ability to conduct surveillance of Internet communications—but the fact it is being considered in relation to Internet obscenity shows its scope is potentially much wider. A hint of this is included in a clause in a draft version of C-30, which states that the legislation would amend “offences in the Canadian Criminal Code relating to hate propaganda and its communication over the Internet”—along with “harassing communications” and “indecent communications” (though what exactly is defined as indecent is not clear—nor is who would get to define it).

A debate about stronger regulation of the Internet is now well underway in Canada. For many it comes down to the question: How far you can push freedom of expression and where do you draw the line? Best Gore, which has now voluntarily taken down the video, justified publishing on the grounds that “it is important, for the sake of us all.” The video needed to be “seen and understood for what it is,” according to Best Gore, “so appropriate steps can be taken to bring those responsible to justice and prevent any further such atrocity from happening.”