Supreme Court Of Canada Tells Google To Filter Search Results…. That’s A Bit Of A Problem

Earlier this week The Supreme Court Of Canada dropped this ruling on the universe:

Canadian courts can force Google to remove results worldwide, the country’s top court has ruled, in decision criticised by civil liberties groups that argue such a move sets a precedent for censorship on the internet.

In its 7-2 decision, Canada’s supreme court found that a court in the country can grant an injunction preventing conduct anywhere in the world when it is necessary to ensure the injunction’s effectiveness.

“The internet has no borders – its natural habitat is global,” the supreme court wrote in its judgment. “The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates – globally.“

Let me explain why this is problematic by going back to what sparked this case:

The case stems from claims by Equustek Solutions Inc, a small technology company in British Columbia that manufactures network devices, that a distributor, Datalink Technologies Gateways, relabeled one of its products and sold it as its own online and acquired trade secrets to design and manufacture a competing product.

In 2012, Equustek asked Google to remove Datalink search results until the case against the company was resolved. While Google removed over 300 specific web pages associated with Datalink, it did so only on the Canadian version of its search engine.

The supreme court of British Columbia subsequently ordered Google to stop displaying search results in any country for any part of Datalink’s websites.

So Google appealed that decision to the Supreme Court Of Canada and lost. And here we are. What the court did is it told Google it cannot include a company in its search results because the company might be stealing. There has been no trial (largely because the people behind Datalink cannot be found) and there has been no finding of guilt or innocence. What happens do Datalink if it’s the latter? Well, what happens is the company has taken a significant hit to it’s bottom line and its reputation. Not that that’s the case here as it appears that Datalink is in the wrong here. But it is worth considering. Plus, until this is actually dealt with in a court, Google is the gatekeeper to keep Datalink at bay. Why isn’t any other search engine mentioned in this decision? It seems really odd to single out Google. And since when are they the police for the entire Internet?

The broader issue is this in my mind: Canadian law is not the law of planet Earth. But in this case, The Supreme Court of Canada has decided that it is the law of planet Earth. This is a dangerous precedent as it basically says that a Canadian court has say over the entire Internet. That seems to be insanely broad to me. It also seems like a slippery slope. What happens when some nation decides that its view of the internet is the legally correct one for example? It makes me wonder what the future of the Internet will be based on what happened this week.




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