This article is more than 1 year old

Pas de problème ... Quebec just passed a website blocking law

ISPs legally obliged to prevent access to servers political masters don't want you to see

Canada's second largest province, Quebec, has passed a law that obliges ISPs to block gambling websites.

Bill 74 has passed almost without notice (the casino industry being the notable exception) and will see the government agency in charge of lotteries in the province, Loto-Québec, draw up a list of online gambling sites that they will then send to ISPs.

ISPs will be required to block access to those sites within 30 days or face a $100,000 fine. The legislation doesn't go into how ISPs should block the sites and although it is now law, it is extremely likely that they will put forward a legal challenge to it.

Incredibly, the ban does not apply to all gambling sites – just those that Loto-Québec doesn't like – and legislators were quite open about the fact that a goal of the law is to increase revenue to the local, officially approved gambling service Espacejeux.

According to its own documents, the law "would increase the dividend that Loto-Québec pays to the government by $13.5 million in 2016-17 and $27 million a year thereafter."

Officially the idea behind the law is to protect the citizens of Quebec – "especially young people" – from sites that do not promote "responsible gaming rules."

Unsurprisingly, it is expected to face a fierce legal challenge. A law allowing a government agency to restrict access to specific websites in order to cause direct financial benefit to another website is not the sort of thing that courts look positively on. Another legal argument to be put forward is that the law attempts to usurp federal telecommunications law.

The passage of the law was recently raised in the House of Commons of Canada, with one minister pointing out that such a law would violate the country's net neutrality position.

Despite Quebec's size and importance, its government is not the most Net-savvy or even consistent. In 2014, it backed away from registering government websites under ".quebec" names despite having previously given formal government support to the plan. ®

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