I have written before about the negotiations currently taking place around the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). One of the clauses being proposed for inclusion by the US Administration would require Canada and Mexico to adopt a law which the US Congress and President Trump ditched last month. Go figure.
The law in question is (the now amended) s.230 of the Communications Decency Act, 1996 – one of the most inappropriately named pieces of legislation ever.
The old s.230 is the law that allowed Backpage and similar to make millions of dollars from the distribution of child sex abuse materials and from facilitating a wide range of sexual offences. This was possible because the old s.230 created such a strong level of immunity for internet intermediaries that law enforcement agencies and the courts were defeated in their efforts to bring the offending parties to book.
The fear is that if the clause makes it into the final version of NAFTA, not only would that be very bad news for Canada and Mexico, it would also set a terrible precedent. It could reappear in trade negotiations that will be held with other countries. Speaking as a Brit contemplating Britain after Brexit that scares me.
All over the world it is common for one bit of Government not to know about or agree with something another bit of the same Government is doing. Very often it is the lot of outsiders to point this out and, generally, not always, it leads to the matter being resolved.
So assuming the decision to follow this course of action is not being directed by the White House or some other powerful element in the core leadership of the Trump Administration, civil society organizations are starting to speak out.
NGOs in Canada and Mexico are also stirring. We are all stakeholders.