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Canada Supreme Court Broadens Internet "Luring" Offense 596

An anonymous reader points out this report that a Canadian Supreme Court has broadened its interpretation of an existing law designed to punish adults who attempt to meet children online for criminal purposes; under the court's interpretation, says the article, that would now "include anyone having an inappropriate conversation with a child — even if the chats aren't sexual in nature and the accused never intended to meet the alleged victim." The story quotes Mark Hecht, of the organization Beyond Borders, thus: "If you're an adult and if you're having conversations with a child on the Internet, be warned because even if your conversations aren't sexual and even if your conversations are not for the purpose of meeting a child and committing an offence against a child, what you're doing is potentially a crime."
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Canada Supreme Court Broadens Internet "Luring" Offense

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  • But... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mattskimo ( 1452429 )
    What counts as innapropriate? Discussing an age-restriced movie with someone below that age rating? Talking about drugs? And who decides what is an isn't appropriate?
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nadaka ( 224565 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:15AM (#30352492)

      Discussion of the inconsistencies of the bible, the nature of evolution, the age and origin of the universe, why its wrong to kill all infidels, anything rational. All of these things are deemed "not appropriate" by someone.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Insightful)

      And who decides what is an isn't appropriate?

      The people with the shrillest voices, of course.

  • What? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by neoform ( 551705 ) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:17AM (#30351718) Homepage

    "If you're an adult and if you're having conversations with a child on the Internet, be warned because even if your conversations aren't sexual and even if your conversations are not for the purpose of meeting a child and committing an offence against a child, what you're doing is potentially a crime."

    Sorry, but talking to someone (anyone) is not illegal in itself.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Unless the law is changed to say that it is.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Manip ( 656104 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:29AM (#30351858)

      It is in Canada evidently....
      Although it also is in the US, UK, AUS, and a fair few other places thanks to insanely broad anti-terrorism laws. If you talk to a "terrorist" even if you don't know they're a terrorist and have no intention of conducting terrorism you can be breaking the law.

      But then again owning a standard middle school science book is also technically illegal depending on how you read the anti-terrorism act(s). So really it is just a thought crime. If they associate you with it they will nab you for it with or without evidence.

      It is the same in this case... They want to make paedophilia a thought crime and thus if you are associated with it by anyone then you are breaking a law...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Not it is NOT. The change is simply removing the "sexual" and "intention to meet" clauses that previously HAD to be involved for the crime to be considered a crime. This allows them to nab online adults who are using the internet pushing drugs, violence (not games, but seriously damaging stuff), emotional trauma and non-sexual abuse on minors. As far as I'm concerned, this is a step forward. There is a lot of damage you can do to a minor that does not involve sex, and it's about time adults were responsible
        • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) <sirlewk.gmail@com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:08AM (#30352364)

          This is an example of the phenomenon I like to describe as "doing the wrong thing for the right reason". Trotting out "it's for the good of the children" is a great way to make bad legislation sound good to the average joe, but it doesn't change the fact that it is still bad legislation.

          Going after people who push drugs on children? That is great, nobody would be against that. A law that would make it potentially illegal to talk to children in general? That is a terrible law and any freedom respecting individual should be against that.

          The US already has laws concerning "the corruption of minors" and I'm sure Canada does as well. We don't need poorly worded laws specific to the internet for acts that are already prosecutable.

          • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @11:03AM (#30353048) Journal

            The problem with the case seems to be that the f*cked up by choosing the wrong charge, had it shot down because of such, and then chose to modify the conditions of the charge in the retrial to make it fit the "crime."

            Apparently the perp in question - though he hadn't actually scheduled to meet the underage girl - had discussed with her the things he wanted to do, including oral sex etc. As he hadn't asked to meet her, the initial judge tossed the luring charge.

            The second judge greatly expanded the scope of what "luring" is, thus allowing that charge to stick. Now it's *WAY* too broad.

            It seems to me that the initial screw-up was charging the guy with luring in the first place. There are appropriate charges for an adult having "dirty talk" (as opposed to just talking about sex, i.e. like a Social Studies or Science class) with a minor. Unfortunately I don't have the exact name of such, but they do exist, and it seems they would have been more appropriate for this scenario than massively broadening the existing law.

            Now it seems I'll have to "card" everyone I meet online. And don't forget that this might not just apply to a chatroom. You've got bulletin boards, and even game lobbies/chats etc. So the next time you tell some opponent "I'm going to f*ck you up", and he turns out to be a 14-15 year old, maybe you'll get a visit from the police.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by acedotcom ( 998378 )
          How is this a step forward? And who decides what innapropiate? and How do you even find the people committing the crimes in the first place? Does this conversation involve replying to comments left by minors? Honestly this law is as much of a trap as setting the a low speed limit and not posting the speed.

          Every bit of this law smacks of more totalitarian molestation of justice. If you TRULY feel that this vague law is protecting anything but some politicians unwarranted self importance then you are s
      • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by thisnamestoolong ( 1584383 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:33AM (#30352710)
        This whole thing is getting out of control. First of all, only a tiny percentage of child abuse happens through the Internet. Even kids are smart enough to recognize that it's not a good idea to meet up with some random person they met in a chat room -- most (somewhere in the neighborhood of 95%) child abuse happens at the hands of family members and close family friends. Of the remaining 5%, very little is facilitated by the Internet. This stuff is certainly bad, but it seems horrifyingly misguided to be writing specific legislation aimed at stomping out this tiny bastion of crime -- particularly when the inevitable collateral damage is considered.

        While we are on the terrorism thing -- I would like to point out that we would be better off passing anti-bee legislation, as significantly more people are killed by bees than terrorists. Again, the whole thing seems completely absurd.
  • So Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:18AM (#30351744)

    If I'm playing an MMO and strike up a text chat with another character, not having any idea that this person is LEGALLY a "child" (IE: Under 18 years of age) and the conversation turns to drinking, then I could be ARRESTED in Canada?

    WTF Canadians? I thought you people were nice and sensible!?

  • More at 11. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yamata no Orochi ( 1626135 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:18AM (#30351750)

    Speaking to children online ruled illegal;

    A worldwide shift back to the "Seen, but not heard," philosophy ruins childhood for everyone.

    • And just to drive the point home, discussing anything that the state or the parents don't want you to discuss with the child is "inappropriate". That means, for example, LGBT issues. This is just another form of child abuse; At least in the USA, children are not even really allowed to own property. You are a non-person until you reach majority.

    • Re:More at 11. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by baKanale ( 830108 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:35AM (#30352748)

      At this point we should probably just keep all children in locked boxes until they reach 18. Not for their protection, but for ours.

    • A worldwide shift back to the "Seen, but not heard," philosophy ruins childhood for everyone.

      ruins it for children.

      the rest of us REJOICE in the new-found silence.

    • Re:More at 11. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @12:50PM (#30354588)

      Wait, wait, wait. No court has ruled that talking to children online is illegal, the story summary is incorrect. They've interpreted luring to include sexual conversations with children. That's not an unreasonable step.

      The article states that "Beyond Borders," a dedicated "think of the children" organization were the ones who said that any conversation with children online would be illegal. Lucky for everyone, Beyond Borders doesn't set precedent, the courts do. The precedent that was set pertains to a particular case in which someone had sexually explicit conversations with a 12 year old. I think inciting an inappropriate conversation like that is an example of luring and absolutely should be illegal.

  • Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:20AM (#30351770)

    I can see it now, people being put on the sex offenders register for saying things like "suck my balls" to their opponents in a Call of Duty multiplayer match only to find out they're underage, even though the kids shouldn't legally be playing the game in the first place.

    • I can see it now, people being put on the sex offenders register for saying things like "suck my balls"

      Is that something you're likely to say?

  • I get mad at you, buy a gun, walk around with it loaded for a few days, never seriously intending to do anything to you or anyone else...and I'm guilty of attempted murder instead of just some degree of weapons charge?
  • Question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:24AM (#30351800)

    And just how is someone to know if it's a child one is chatting with?

    • Re:Question (Score:5, Funny)

      by RobotRunAmok ( 595286 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:29AM (#30351860)

      And just how is someone to know if it's a child one is chatting with?

      If you want to talk about the impact Quantum Mechanics is having on Theology, and she keeps trying to switch the subject back to "Twilight," that's your first clue.

      • "I never thought she was a child, honest! I thought she was an FBI agent!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by had3l ( 814482 )

        You never know, I was talking to my 12 year old cousin just a week ago.

        She wasn't very interested in Twilight, however, she kept constantly asking me questions about string theory, black holes and quantum physics.
        I was so proud! She is definitely a future slashdotter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:24AM (#30351808)

    ban children from internet altogether!

  • Private net (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:25AM (#30351818)
    It seems more and more reasonable to give kids their own version of the internet completely. That way we wont get crazy someone think of the children laws.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I can't see anyone this hurts but pedophiles. I'd feel a lot safer, as a 22 year old, knowing that the people I discuss linux with aren't underage. We all know linux is a euphism for sex.

    • Re:Private net (Score:5, Insightful)

      by slarrg ( 931336 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:34AM (#30351926)
      We need a "get your damn kid off my internet" campaign.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by greenreaper ( 205818 )
      If they did that, we'd lose half our Wikipedia administrators.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Let's suppose for a minute that this was technically feasible and that enforcement wasn't a problem (i.e. no adults on the "Kid Internet" pretending to be 14 year olds). Those are big assumptions, but we'll ignore them for a second. What is appropriate for a child of 6 years is different than what is appropriate for a child of 10 years or a "child" of 15 years. (By that point, I'd argue, they aren't quite children anymore, but the "think of the children" movement loves to lumps them all together.)

      So we w

  • other than situations where they answer the phone and you ask to speak to their parents or they are visiting your kids. why would an adult need to communicate with someone else's child over the internet?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How do you know it's a child? Am I a child?

    • by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:49AM (#30352110) Homepage

      other than situations where they answer the phone and you ask to speak to their parents or they are visiting your kids. why would an adult need to communicate with someone else's child over the internet?

      For the same reason we talk to other adults? Because we share interests?

      The music I enjoy, computer games I play, sports I watch.. plenty of those have an audience that is not exclusively for adults or children. We mix at the physical concerts and stadiums, so why not in on-line discussions? I've talked to plenty of tweens and teenagers who had more intelligent things to discuss than quite a few adults. Since most laws don't distinguish between adolescents and toddlers, should those "children" be off-limits to talk to as well?

      That said, I agree there's probably not much adults have in common with pre-teens nor would there often be a reason to communicate with them.

    • by DigitalSorceress ( 156609 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:03AM (#30352290)

      Okay, this will probably be taken as a point for the other side, BUT:

      In my WoW guid, we have a few members under the age of 18. Mostly, they're the kids of "real" members and their participation is a matter of humoring them. However, we've got at least one kid (14 at present) who is really quite mature for his age. Specifically, he's got three end-game geared characters, and he's capable of being a very effective main tank on what is currently some of the most difficult content in Warcraft.

      (translation, this 14 year old kid plays his characters as well as any adult member, and better than some).

      We've also got a Ventrillo server (voice chat) to help us communicate during raids and to coordinate other guild activities (as well as being a social space)

      So, although you may disagree about the merits of a kid's participation in WoW, I can tell you that I've actually heard our raid leader (A Canadian citizen and ironically, an eighth grade teacher) ask this young raider if he's done his homework before a raid. In some ways, the majority of us adults treat him as a little brother most of the time, and as an equal colleague when raiding.

      Where does that leave our raid leader? What about our other Canadian members? How long before the US enacts the "me too" version of this law, potentially exposing us to criminal/civil liability just for letting this kid into our lives?

      Anyway, in answer to that question, there are many legitimate and wholly innocent reasons. I know that I interact with this particular kind IN SPITE OF HIS AGE, not because of it.

  • I love inflammatory comments as much as the next /.er, but I can't imagine this law being used on its own to prosecute somebody. Most likely it'll be used as part of child exploitation cases just to pile on the charges or find something to pin on the defendant. So probably not a big deal...

    ...unless the local DA (or Canada's equivalent) has a bone to pick with you.
  • I can just see the disaster that is "having an inappropriate conversation" being put to the test.

    Defendant "Your honor, all I was doing was talking about which blue cheese tastes best as a pasta sauce."

    Judge "Well, that may be the case, but you were on a technical forum. 2 years in Federal Pound You in the Ass Prison."
  • How about they make a law stating that parents who let their kids get on these chat pages/programs unsupervised get publically flogged.
  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:31AM (#30351890)
    Here in the UK the huge overreaction has spawned a child protection industry which, while making promotion opportunities for civil servants, has created a climate in which people will no longer intervene to stop children fighting or warn children about danger in case the children accuse the adults of "inappropriate behaviour".

    A society which genuinely wanted to protect children would do things like reduce speed limits in built up areas to 10mph and imprison people who drive while talking on mobile phones - because the proponents of the legislation claim that any level of intrusion is justified if "a single child is saved".

    Interestingly, the hysteria is driven by tabloid newspapers who, on other pages, will be moaning about the "Nanny State" - but this Canadian case seems to be about "the evil scum didn't commit an offence! We must create one so that in future similar evil scum can be charged with something!"

    • by Mr. Shiny And New ( 525071 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:56AM (#30352976) Homepage Journal

      I read the ruling. There is an actual offence which was committed. It is against the law (a law passed by parliament) to communicate with a child under 14 (at the time this offence took place the law said 14) for the purposes of facilitating a secondary crime such as abduction or a sex crime or a child porn crime.

      The accused admits to have had sexual conversations with the child who had represented herself as 13 (she was 12). The accused admits that he stated a desire to have oral sex with the girl. He denies any desire to actually meet the girl or to actually have sex with her or to actually abduct her or to actually get dirty pictures of her or whatever.

      The trial court ruled that since he didn't want to meet her he wasn't facilitating a crime.

      The supreme court ruled that "facilitating" means, among other things, "making easier" or "making possible" or "making more possible" the acts in question. So there is a question about whether or not he "facilitated" under the terms of the law.

      Thus the accused will receive a new trial.

      So there WAS a law and it sounds like he did break it. This is not a new law. This is a clarification of the wording of the old law. The sticky point seems to be that facilitating merely involves gaining the trust of a child, so any talk which gains the trust of a child could be facilitating. However it would require a strong burden of evidence to prove that such talk was for facilitating the crime.

  • A message (Score:4, Funny)

    by ChienAndalu ( 1293930 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:32AM (#30351902)

    to Canadas youth: Stop ruining the internet for us adults. Seriously, go fuck yours---------CARRIER LOST

  • Back in the day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:47AM (#30352086)

    Back before AOL violated their own TOS by monitoring private chats, back when IM was new, back when IRC was for nerds (It still is, right?), one of the things I, an adult, loved to do was talk to other people online.

    Different races, different cultures, different ages, too, provided new perspectives on life. Talking to a Californian and the O.J. case, talked to a German about the fall of the wall, talking to someone in South Africa about relationships, and even talking to kids about music (or anything else for which I found their fresh, sometimes naive perspective eye-opening) were activities I loved because they gave me a different way of looking at things. I consider polite conversation with as many people who are as different from me as possible to be an essential part of the lifelong process of self-education that we should all relish.

    Yes, that means I talked to kids online.

    I don't do that any more. I don't even try to talk to new people online anymore. So many of the old haunts were slowly invaded by LEOs blundering their way through silly entrapment schemes ("Hi, I'm 14/f/California. I love cheerleading and gymnastics. Do you want to talk to me? I've been having problems with my boyfriend cuz he wants to sex me and I'd like to know what an older guy thinks" was typical, although I didn't misspell nearly enough words.) that all the fun was sucked out of it.

    Now, I talk on forums where the whole world can read what I say. That way, no one can accuse me of grooming. When I made the decision to eschew private conversations with strangers, I thought I was being too paranoid but withdrew, anyway, just to be on the safe side.

    It seems I wasn't paranoid at all. There really are people out there who think that if an adult says "Hi" to a kid they don't know, said adult must be up to no good.


    Really, really sad.

    • Re:Back in the day (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:45AM (#30352854)

      I, too, have stopped trying to talk to people I don't already know. It's fucking depressing. There are just too many idiots and risks out there to bother. Every single time in the last year or so that I've been contacted by someone I didn't already know, I went completely stealth. In environments where I had to be accommodating to people I hadn't known for years, I did as little as possible and never engaged them as if they were anything except text or the occasional sound file.

      The internet of the mid-to-late-90s was like an image with 16 bits of chroma resolution. With so much gray, it was easy not being black or white.

      The MAFIAA, ACTA, and Governments worldwide are turning it bi-level, and it's a disgrace. Nobody cares. We're insignificant, and we're losing.

      Hunter S. Thompson said something profound about 9/11 and its effects on American politics, but it's equally as relevant here: 'The 22 babies born in New York City while the World Trade Center burned will never know what they missed.' Children born today will never know what they missed. And they missed something worthwhile.

      Ten, fifteen years ago I'd sometimes spend all day finding places and people I had never interacted with, and diving headfirst in. I learned more from those amazingly diverse communities than I have from anything else in my life. It truly was like some kind of renaissance, and I miss it every second of every day. My family and my mind are about the only things I wouldn't give to go back. While there may have been "less" to the internet back then, what was there made up for what we lack today, by and large. And I'm not that old, either. But I sure do feel it.

      All that's dead now, of course. Jack Valenti stabbed it in the neck, the cops raided the funeral, an evangelical domestic terrorist stole the headstone, it decomposed, and the bones are in the process of turning to dust. Nowadays we fawn over iTunes and Wikipedia and count ourselves lucky that at least in the west the government doesn't ADMIT to being China, even though they are. Everyone's paranoid, like we're in some besieged city, brimming with spies, and if you're not careful the spies will kill you. Or the government will, for being near the spy. Or a bomb will fall on your house, and end it all before you know what happened. And when you're not thinking about these things, you think about the invasion that's around the corner. Your natural inclination might be to go on an orgiastic hedonistic frenzy to end all frenzies, but everyone else is mentally dead. Lump of horsemeat, etc.

      I know I'm supposed to care about net neutrality, but I can't bring myself to give a shit. So, my ISP might start microtransactioning me to death and blocking swaths of the web? Big deal, they already overcharge me for shit service and one misclick can be fatal. What's there to lose anymore? Access to DRM'd content that'll break at the drop of a hat, and completely corporate censored 'mainstream' websites? Hell, even if they blocked SSH to the communal server I use, we'd probably just end up running it over the phone, while that still exists, and mailing each other DVDs, while they still allow private ownership of archival media. What do you need it for, anyway? After all, the cloud just works so quickly and so well, why not.

      Fuck it all. They can have this fucking mess. Take your facebook, ad networks, media stores, and twitter and fucking choke on it.

      Dear trolls who will flame me about 'hurf durf you're taking this shit too seriously obviously you're a predator of some kind' or 'hurf durf tell us about walking both ways in the snow': This law's concept is essentially the straw that broke my camel's back on the state of the internet, which has been stressed ever since the Napster shutdown. I'd ask you to look at things with an open mind, but it's pointless. I'm typing words for no reason except to soothe my useless ego. Ignore me, I'm pointless. But, the thing is, so are you.

      AC because every letter you type under a name you gave yourself is at risk of datamining. This is risky enough. I'm tired.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by corbettw ( 214229 )

      Wish Slashdot had a "nominate for best" button. This post is one of the best examples of what we've lost over the years that I've seen in a while. Kudos.

  • Double jeopardy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:52AM (#30352144)

    I RTFA.

    I didn't realize they didn't have double jeopardy in Canada.

    How many times can a person be tried for the same offense in Canada? Is there a limit? Do prosecutors and courts just keep changing the rules and re-filing charges until they get a conviction?

    I'm not being intentionally obtuse, here. I'm legitimately curious.

  • Braindead justice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:55AM (#30352170) Homepage

    "Those who use their computers to lure children for sexual purposes often groom them online by first gaining their trust through conversations about their home life, their personal interests or other innocuous topics."

    How many people are going to be arrested for asking children about their "personal interests or other innocuous topics" on the grounds that the person asking the questions might perhaps turn out to be a pedophile?

    "[The law] makes it a crime to communicate by computer with underage children or adolescents for the purpose of facilitating the commission of the offences."


    He said the new Internet luring law "criminalizes conduct that precedes the commission of the sexual offences."

    How do you establish the adult's intentions unless the adult has expressed a desire to commit an offense against the child, thus not requiring the broader interpretation of the law? The way the judge's decision is described, it would seem it isn't necessary to establish criminal intent, thus making people liable for conversations that are truly innocent.

    There's often been an air of paranoia around many of the laws that are supposed to address the online victimization of children, but this one is about the most ridiculous I've seen. Idiots at the helm is all I can say.

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