Internet traffic and usage has grown considerably in recent years. In response to the impact of this growth, internet service providers and other companies have implemented practices which control, limit, and track user’s internet usage. Additionally, the formation and enforcement of laws regarding the web has a lot of evolving to do, considering the internet is still in its infancy. The internet and the law will remain in a paradigm shift, and will continue in the process of development.
Canadian law protects the reputations of individuals and groups under the Defamation Act or Libel and Slander Act. The definition of libel is “any statement which tends to discredit or lower an individual ‘in the estimation of right-thinking members of society'” (Canadian Judicial Council, 2007, p. 13). It is unusual to see a work that treats reputation as a topic in its own right, but reputation matters and merits our attention. (Slee, 2012). Reputation influences opinions on people, products, and services – whom to trust and what to buy. It is important, but has become increasingly problematic – giving us the ability to search for information that we want to know.
In 2013, Canada-based Hotel Quebec filed a suit against a former guest for $95,000 after writing a negative review on TripAdvisor. Laurent Azoulay from Montreal, complained about bed bugs in his room and refused to remove the review from the site. Since the review was posted, many users have rated the review as helpful, and the hotel has seen a dip in business. The power and influence of social media with online review sites like Yelp, and TripAdvisor can have a profound effect on business, meaning companies will be more proactive in protecting their reputation. The actions taken by businesses is creating a chilling effect on reviewers who fear being sued for libel. Albeit some reviews are out of spite, social media should have rules and laws so that reviews can he supported by those platforms.
The CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) is an administrative tribunal that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in the public interest. With the internet evolving into a complex communication channel, it is important that “Canadians can connect to quality internet services at affordable and reasonable prices.” Recently, the CRTC issued a new framework by which it will judge whether internet services providers are discriminating against certain kinds of traffic and content. Their mandate is entrusted by the Parliament of Canada focusing on the Broadcasting Act, Telecommunications Act, and Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CRTC, 2014).
Net neutrality is an issue that concerns how the internet will operate. The basic principle of net neutrality is that access to all websites and web services should be equal and that anyone can start their own website/service and make it accessible to anyone. Internet service providers in Canada are trying to deviate from this. Without net neutrality, ISPs could arbitrarily block websites it didn’t want you to access and could also force you to pay extra to access certain websites or services.
In a recent case, the CRTC has issued that Bell and Videotron violated the Telecommunications Act by granting their own wireless services preference by exempting them from data charges. Ben Klass, a Manitoba student, filed a complaint saying Belle was giving itself an unfair advantage by charging more for Netflix content that its own competing content. The CRTC ruled that mobile television services effectively invoked both broadcast and telecom regulation, since an internet connection is required to access the service. Bell has to eliminate its preferential data charges but filed an application with the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn that decision (Godber, 2015).
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