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$9 million for free expression abroad. Now how will the government prevent censorship at home?

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Yesterday, the government announced a joint program with the Munk School of Global Affairs to help Internet users in authoritarian countries circumvent Internet censorship.

The $9 million initiative is designed to promote free expression online, which has been declining thanks to repressive regimes cracking down on Internet users around the globe. Countries like Iran and Russia have been using various techniques to curb online criticism, such as blocking, filtering, and imprisoning people who speak out.

Millions of Internet users around the globe have been speaking out against online censorship, advocating for stronger rules to protect free expression and sharing techniques for getting around government-imposed online blocks.

Last year in Turkey, a global community sprung up to help Turkish Internet users evade blocks on Twitter and Youtube, which Prime Minister Recep Erdogan had shut down amidst growing criticism of his regime. Recently, over 3 million Internet users spoke out in favour of free expression online by crowdsourcing Our Digital Future: a Crowdsourced Agenda for Free Expression.

We welcome today’s announcement by the federal government, and hope that it will contribute positively to this growing call to protect free expression on the Internet. Any action that helps repressed people to speak out online is a step in the right direction.

We’re particularly surprised since the Canadian government’s track record on online free expression has been questionable at best. Since 2012, Canada has been engaging in highly secretive talks around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a huge multi-national agreement that threatens to make the Internet more censored, expensive, and policed.

Under the TPP, your ISP could be forced to censor allegedly infringing content from online with no due process, including removing entire websites. We’ve seen in the past that these extreme laws around online sharing can be used for nefarious purposes -- censoring individuals for speaking out on the pretext of a copyright violation.

We applaud this $9 million partnership and look forward to Internet users in repressive countries having a stronger voice online. Here at home, you can rely on your OpenMedia team to hold the government’s feet to the fire to ensure that Canadians will continue to have the same privileges.



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