Crowdsourcing Regulation? Anti-Spam Enforcement by the CRTC

I posted recently about Canada’s new anti-spam law, mentioning the challenges that the CRTC would face in implementing it.

The CRTC has established a complaints mechanism which can be accessed via its website.  Have a look here.

It is proving popular: more than 1,000 complaints were received in the first week. By the end of August, they were up to 85,000.

These are being “reviewed”, the CRTC says, understandably.

What is interesting is whether the pattern of complaints will affect the pattern of enforcement, not in the sense that enforcement follows complaints (that is obvious) but whether enforcement will be targeted based on the concerns raised by users.

If I may coin a phrase, this would mean the CRTC is “crowdsourcing” its regulation of spam. Given the ready availability of internet connectivity and the ability of algorithms to sift data received, this seems like a promising method of regulatory innovation.

Public participation in administrative policy-making is nothing new, of course. In a typical notice-and-comment proceeding, the agency sets the process in motion and its ultimate conclusions are shaped by input from interested parties: e.g. legislation –> agency agenda setting –> public input –> agency decision (the policy-making process will not always be linear; sometimes, it will be reflexive, with, for example, public input causing the agency to modify its initial agenda and start a new process).

But in the anti-spam context, the public itself might set the agenda: the CRTC’s complaints mechanism inserts members of the public between the legislature and the agency: e.g. legislation –> public input –> agency agenda setting –> agency (enforcement) decision.

I use “might” advisedly: it is not yet clear precisely how the CRTC will proceed. But they may break new ground.

This content has been updated on September 9, 2014 at 08:59.