Canada's spying bill is PATROIT Act fanfic

Madeline Ashby writes, "I wrote this column about Canada's Bill C-51, which would allow Canada's spy agency CSIS to detain people for simply 'promoting' terrorism, promises it can wipe terrorist content from the Internet, expands no-fly lists, and is basically a piece of Patriot Act fanfic. I thought you guys might like to know that years after Bush left office, his fans are trying to keep the tradition alive."

Borrowing its ideas from dystopian science fiction like Minority Report and The Hunger Games, Bill C-51 allows CSIS to arrest anyone they suspect might commit a crime, even if they haven't done anything. They can be held for a week, which is around the amount of time Winston Smith spends in the Ministry of Love in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Canadians can also be detained for up to five years for simply "promoting" terrorism. Naturally, the bill is somewhat evasive about what that "promotion" means. Presumably it's like pornography — CSIS knows it when it sees it. The Bill also allows those "promotional" messages to be wiped from the Internet, which means only one thing: CSIS doesn't know how the Internet actually works. (No wonder they find it so terrifying.) If Jennifer Lawrence can't get her nude photographs back, I can't imagine how CSIS thinks it's going to take down terrorist content.

The bill also allows CSIS to "disrupt" the communications of potential terrorists at home and abroad. "Disrupt" has grown beyond its original meaning, and is currently a Silicon Valley buzzword that Clayton Christensen coined to talk about fringe businesses changing an economic landscape, and that makes this provision of the bill sound more innovative and exciting than it really is. In this context, it seems to mean hacking emails, travel plans, and financial information and sending back mis-information. This seems very high-tech and impressive until you remember it's a standard 4Chan attack pattern. Cyber-bullies do this kind of thing every day. Gosh, CSIS, you're going to hack the terrorists' emails? Maybe you should change their LiveJournal passwords, too, since it's 1998 and everything.

Ashby: Canada's Patriot Act fan-fiction [Madeline Ashby/Ottawa Citizen]

(Image: GWB signing PATRIOT ACT, public domain)