When it comes to nonsensical rulings pertaining to the internet, the blame typically lies with some old U.S. judge who still uses a rotary phone. The legal system cannot keep up with the world’s most transformative technology, which happens to be evolving rapidly and unapologetically. This week, though, it was Canada that royally screwed up.
The country’s Supreme Court concluded, in a 7-2 vote, that a local court can grant an injunction preventing conduct “anywhere in the world.” Specific to the case, this means it can force Google to remove search results worldwide.
The Supreme Court wrote the following in its judgment:
Where it is necessary to ensure the injunction’s effectiveness, a court can grant an injunction enjoining conduct anywhere in the world. The problem in this case is occurring online and globally. The Internet has no borders — its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates — globally.
Maybe I should be thrilled that Canada is so forward-thinking to note that the internet doesn’t have borders. In some ways, that’s progress, given how often we see archaic courts making inane decisions related to the internet.
And yet, somehow, Canada’s Supreme Court couldn’t foresee its ruling being adapted by other countries. If Canada can enforce its laws to limit search results in other countries, does it accept when other countries decide to do the same?
If a country as “free” as Canada wants to limit speech and information access via Google, you can bet your bottom loonie that other countries will do the same. It’s just plain backwards to de-index results worldwide because one country’s court order is violated.
Will Google have to remove everything about Tiananmen Square worldwide because China demands it? Will Google have to remove everything LGBTQ related worldwide because Russia demands it? Will Google have to remove everything about women driving worldwide because Saudi Arabia demands it?
This is an incredibly dangerous precedent.
Need more proof that this is a terrible ruling? The RIAA is happy about it:
— RIAA (@RIAA) June 28, 2017
Google will of course end up deciding which countries’ extraterritorial orders it enforces. Some may argue, therefore, that Canada’s Supreme Court isn’t really accomplishing anything and this is much ado about nothing.
But as a Canadian, that just makes me even more embarrassed.
ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.