Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation (SISE) Act Introduced in Parliament
Today, MP Arnold Viersen introduced the Stopping Internet Sexual Exploitation Act or the SISE Act.
This private member’s bill is the next step in a long history of action on the part of MP Arnold Viersen in the face of pornography and online sexual exploitation content. He was involved in promoting and receiving unanimous consent for Motion 47 in 2016, which resulted in a committee investigation of online sexually explicit content. This piece of legislation comes amid a firestorm of activity around the organization MindGeek which profits from its online pornography sites which feature user-uploaded content.
At the end of 2020, an exposé post in The New York Times targeted MindGeek and its subsidiary Pornhub, a Canadian-based, for-profit pornography business. The article highlighted major problems relating to the age of those portrayed in some of the pornographic videos, and raised concerns around consent, as the platform had been based on user-uploaded content in such a way that unverified users could upload videos any number of times.
Pornhub uses the “tube” model of video content and moderation. Unverified users can upload any content, from anywhere. The openness of this system is ripe for abuse – and Pornhub and similar businesses seem to thrive off this abuse. Just as concerning is the lack of safeguards requiring that the production of this kind of content was consensual in the first place.
This type of business model denies victims a reasonable avenue of recourse to remove the offending content and punish the offender. The Pornhub business model thrives on amateur videos where content and consent are not easily verified. This includes content that portrays criminal behaviour. Pornhub’s model is one that is easily abused, takes all responsibility off the uploader and the site hosts, and places the responsibility for removing criminal videos on the victims portrayed in the videos themselves to ensure that their pleas are heard, and the offending videos are deleted.
Ethics Committee Investigates
Since the start of the MindGeek controversy, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Information, Privacy, and Ethics has been investigating the question of ‘Protection of Privacy and reputation on Platforms such as Pornhub.’
ARPA Canada was able to file a written brief to the Ethics Committee on this subject which you can read here. Two of our recommendations relate directly to the SISE Act – 1. To shift the onus of proving the legitimacy of any pornographic video away from the victim and onto both the pornography creator and the content host, and 2. to address the need for any creator and content host to verify the consent of the individuals portrayed in the pornographic material before making any such material available for consumption.
Parliament needs to address the fact that these sites host videos of violent pornography, rape and pornographic videos featuring underage girls. More needs to be done by Parliament and law enforcement to ensure that the pornography industry stops exploiting vulnerable women. The introduction of this bill comes at a crucial time in the national discussion.
What does the SISE Act do?
The Liberal government responded to the controversy in December by saying they hope to introduce legislation to address these concerns soon. As of now, this has not happened.
MP Viersen’s SISE Act seeks to take the lead in encouraging the government to address this problem.
The SISE Act adds two offences to the Criminal Code: making it an offence to create pornographic material for a commercial purpose without verifying the age and consent of the individuals shown, and to distribute pornographic material for a commercial purpose without verifying the age and consent of those shown. It also seeks to address cases where consent has been withdrawn.
The SISE Act also addresses concerns about the portrayal of minors and escalates penalties for material that depicts minors.
Finally, the SISE Act seeks to address a trend in pornographic material that depicts cruelty and violence or hatred towards identifiable groups, such as racial minorities and more.
“For years, pornographic platforms in Canada have published sexually explicit material without any requirement to verify the age or consent of those depicted in them,” says MP Arnold Viersen. “As a result, egregious videos of sex trafficking, child exploitation, and sexual assault have proliferated on Canadian pornography websites. Many of these videos have been monetized, bringing in massive profits. ”
ARPA is proud to endorse the SISE Act
ARPA Canada is pleased to endorse MP Viersen’s bill. We will do what we can to promote this legislation and to encourage a healthy national discussion about this issue and work towards greater protections for the victims of this kind of online exploitation. We pray that this may be a step in the right direction towards ending the widespread proliferation of pornographic material and the abusive market that comes with it.