Canadian Web Hosts at Risk of Serious Sanctions?

A new report from Citizen Lab researchers has revealed that some Canadian-based web servers are providing hosting services for a variety of controversial Syrian websites. Not only does that skirt the lines of ethical standards in the Internet community, it also might be illegal according to experts. The problem lies in the fact that the Canadian government has imposed sanctions against Syria as a result of their government’s violent actions against protesters.

According to Citizen Lab there are currently 17 Syrian government websites being hosted by Canadian companies. This, despite Canadian sanctions which specifically name more than 20 Syrian entities including the Addounia TV station, long suspected as being one of the many media outlets influenced or directly controlled by Hezbollah. In addition, U.S. web hosts are providing service for seven sites while two more are running off German servers.

No one is exactly sure what this new report will lead to given the fact that Canada’s sanctions are so vague. Not so in the U.S. where the language specifically prohibits “the direct or indirect exportation of web hosting services that are for purposes other than personal communications or of domain name registration services.” Furthermore, two of the identified web hosting companies (iWeb and RackForce) insists they routinely cooperate with authorities when issues are raised. If true, their assertions would indicate that Ottawa has not been concerned to this point.

According to Citizen Lab’s Ron Deibert, that needs to change. In an official statement he said, “That Syrian government websites, including a Syrian state-backed television station known to be inciting violence, are hosted in Canada, is at minimum in contradiction to Canada’s stated foreign policy and possibly material support to a regime that is now globally condemned for its repression and violence.”

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