Monday 12 November, 2018

Flow: We can’t block illegal links without restricting entire sites

Columbus Communications Limited (Flow) says it just can’t remove illegal hyperlinks, but may have to completely restrict access to an entire site such as Facebook or YouTube. 

This is one of the concerns which was raised by the internet service provider when it appeared before a Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Cybercrime Bill on Thursday.

Clause 37 of the Bill will allow for an internet service provider to remove a hyperlink:

37. (1) An internet who enables access to information provided by another person, by providing an electronic hyperlink, shall not be liable for the information that is in contravention of this Act if- a) removes or disables access to the information after receiving a lawful order from any appropriate authority to remove the link.

However, Columbus Communications Limited Vice President, Technology Kurleigh Prescod said it’s not that simple as the internet service provider cannot just block hyperlinks.

As such, he believes this section must be reviewed for greater clarity.

“We as an internet service provider are unable to execute or perform the actions that are being requested of us in this particular section,” Prescod noted.

He explained that what the internet service provider may have to do is remove an entire site.

“If there is a hyperlink to illegal information and we are asked to remove or disable access to that link, as the internet service provider we would not just be able to remove access or disable that specific link. We would actually need to disable access to the entire site.”

Prescod said for example, if someone were to post an illegal link on Facebook and Flow receives an order to remove the link, the internet service provider cannot just limit access to that specific link or to that Facebook page, but will have to disable access to all of Facebook.

We would be disabling access to all of Facebook, which would be very disruptive,” he said.

However, Prescod added that the Cybercrime Bill is a positive step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, members of the Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society (TTCS) also appeared before the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Cybercrime Bill on Thursday.

Director Jacqueline Morris expressed concern about the suppression of free speech.

Morris said some clauses in the bill, specifically Clause 8 can affect the work of journalists.

“In the interest of support for the fourth estate as well as of the principles of free speech enshrined in our constitution, this bill requires urgent complementary whistle-blower and or journalist protection,” Morris said.


About the Cybercrime Bill

The purpose of the Cybercrime Bill, 2017 is to provide for the creation of offences related to cybercrime and for other related matters in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Bill would be inconsistent with sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution and is therefore required to be passed by a special majority of three-fifths of the members of each House.

Clause 8 seeks to create the offence of illegally acquiring computer data. This offence would carry a fine of one hundred thousand dollars and two years’ imprisonment on summary conviction or a fine of five hundred thousand dollars and three years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

This clause also seeks to create the offence of receiving or gaining access to computer data knowing that it is obtained illegally, and would carry the same penalty as that of the offence of illegally acquiring computer data.

The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) expressed concern that Clause 8 could restrict press freedom in Trinidad and Tobago.


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