ISP owners could face jail under child porn bill

The federal government has introduced legislation requiring internet service providers to report any indications of child pornography to authorities or face fines and possible imprisonment.

Must pass tips to authorities

The federal government introduced legislation on Tuesday requiring internet service providers to notify authorities of any reports of child pornography or face fines and possible imprisonment.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson told a news conference that most ISPs already act when they are notified of child pornography, but the legislation will make these notifications mandatory.

"A mandatory reporting regime across Canada will improve law enforcement's ability to detect offences and help reduce the availability of online pornography, facilitate the rescue of victims and help identify and apprehend offenders," he said.

If enacted, the bill would require ISPs to notify police of tips they receive regarding websites where child pornography may be available, and to safeguard evidence if they suspect a child pornography offence has been committed using an internet service that they provide.

Fines up to $100,000

ISPs wouldn't have to engage in active monitoring, but when they received notification they would have to act on it, Nicholson said. Notification would amount to providing the URL, or web address, of the site where the material was found to an agency designated to handle the reports.

Punishments for sole proprietorship ISPs would range from fines of $1,000 to up to $10,000, or six months imprisonment. For corporations, fines would range from $10,000 to $100,000.

Similar legislation is already in place in the United States, but in Canada ISPs are not required to retain customer data and do not take an active role in policing apparent child pornography.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino said the proposed law is a key tool needed by police to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

Child protection advocates welcomed the legislation, calling child pornography a horrific crime.

Bell, Rogers and Telus, Canada's largest internet providers, also cheered the legislation. They said they were already in compliance with it and have been helping authorities for some time, so they would not incur any additional costs.

Telus spokesman Shawn Hall said the legislation covers more than just ISPs: Content providers, email services and social networks must also abide by the new rules.

"It covers more than just internet service providers, but also anyone providing internet services to the public. It should help," he said. "This isn't something ISPs can do on their own. This requires a global effort."

With files from The Canadian Press