Europe hopes to outlaw hate speech online

4,000 web sites may be shut down
Sat Nov 17 19:50:42 2001

Europe hopes to outlaw hate speech online
By CNET Staff
By Wendy McAuliffe

The Council of Europe is pressing ahead with a protocol to criminalize hate speech on the Internet.

After the Cybercrime Convention--the world's first international treaty on cybercrime--was approved Thursday, the Standing Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly voted unanimously to back it with a protocol that defines and outlaws hate speech on computer networks.

Publishing material likely to incite racial hatred is already illegal in the United Kingdom under the Public Order Act 1986, but there is nothing that can be done under U.K. law if the company's servers are located in another country, such as the United States. To date, there have been no successful prosecutions for race hate material appearing on the Net, so there is no case law to suggest what is illegal in the United Kingdom.

"It is difficult to apply the U.K. Public Order Act to online content--there is a lack of clear precedents relating to offline content that we would need to make a judgment about anything being illegal online," said David Kerr, chairman of the Internet Watch Foundation. "There are no consistent laws around the world for overseas content--the U.S. in particular is safeguarded by the First Amendment."

Drafters of the European protocol have been advised to consider ways of preventing "illegal hosting," where servers are located in a country with more lenient laws. Racist organizations, for example, could place their servers in the United States and hide behind the protection of the First Amendment.

Racial hatred has taken a backseat in the political agenda in the past, but the Council of Europe's approval of the Cybercrime Convention--which was drawn up with the participation of non-European countries such as the United States and Canada--signifies a new commitment to cracking down on online racist content. A recent report estimates that at present there are around 4,000 racist Web sites, including 2,500 in the United States.

"The 11 September has shown that hate speech can become an action of horrendous magnitude," said Ivor Tallo from the Estonia Socialist Group, which authored the report. "Therefore, modern technology has to have safeguards, and one of those is to ban hate speech on the Internet."

The European Commission also recently emphasized the need to control racist content online, handing $5.37 million (6 million euros) to an Internet safety project. The funding will form the final part of the Safer Internet Action Plan, originally set up to tackle illegal and racist content on the Internet.

The new money is designated for an awareness campaign promoting the dangers of children using Internet chat rooms. A portion of the money will also be used to set up hotlines across Europe that let people report harmful content encountered on the Internet. For the next couple of months, the EC will be accepting bids for funding from European nongovernmental organizations wishing to promote awareness of safer Internet use.

Staff writer Wendy McAuliffe reported from London.

Internet: Target of globalists
By Henry Lamb

As promised, the Council of Europe has now authorized a protocol to its Convention on Cybercrime, designed to eliminate "hate speech" on the Internet.

A report prepared for the Council by the Estonia Socialist Group, claims "The 11 September has shown that hate speech can become an action of horrendous magnitude ... therefore, modern technology has to have safeguards, and one of those is to ban hate speech on the Internet."

The report identifies 4,000 web sites that promote "hate speech," of which, 2,500 are in the U.S. where they can "hide behind the protection of the First Amendment."

Both Canada and the United States participated in the development of this treaty.

Controlling speech is essential to effective socialist control. Public Order Act 1986 already forbids the publication of material in England, that is "likely to incite racial hatred." The United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, proclaims in Article 19(2), that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression," but Article 19(3) says that under certain circumstances, this freedom may be "subject to certain restrictions."

This U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been around since 1966. No one has been particularly concerned, because the U.N. has never had the power to enforce it. This is no longer the case. The International Criminal Court has the authority to prosecute "crimes against humanity," a term that is as ambiguous as "hate speech."

The question is: Who will determine what is a "crime against humanity," or "hate speech"?

The U.N. is moving systematically, and rapidly toward the consolidation of its control over the flow of commerce. With the adoption of the recommendations of the High Level Panel on Financing for Development, the U.N. can be in a position to not only levy global taxes, but to exert considerable economic pressure on countries that fail to adopt and enforce U.N. policies.

The Convention on Cybercrime was developed during the Clinton era; and we have not yet heard the Bush administration's view. We have heard administration support, in general, for the 12 U.N. treaties dealing with terrorism, one of which is the Convention on Cybercrime. It is not yet clear whether Bush will withdraw from the Cybercrime treaty, as he did with the Kyoto Protocol, or whether he will let his determination to end terrorism blind him to the danger of giving the U.N. the authority to control free speech on the Internet.

Should the U.N. gain this power, look out it's just the beginning.

Article 20 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights outlaws "war propaganda." The U.N. could well consider recruiting ads by the U.S. military to be "hate speech," or "war propaganda." If the U.N. gains control over Internet content, what is to prevent it from moving next to control content of television or radio programs?

These concerns are not new among U.N. watchers. However, they have been rejected out of hand by most members of Congress, and by the American public. The U.N. Association, and a host of U.N. supporters, ridicule such concerns, and counter with the notion that the United Nations is the world's only hope for a peaceful future.

The United Nations is building a global system of socialist rule, which is 180-degrees away from the system of governance envisioned by the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law " ... abridging the freedom of speech." Period. This fundamental principle of freedom has been redefined by the U.N. to mean: "you are free to speak, so long as what you say is acceptable to our central governing authority."

The principles of freedom, as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, are the only hope for a peaceful future. The followers of Osama bin Laden are victims of controlled speech. They know only what their "central governing authority" allows them to know. Their attitudes and behavior are shaped and controlled by a "central governing authority." They know nothing of freedom.

Only when all people are free to speak their own minds, make their own choices, pursue their own dreams and achieve and accomplish their own goals will there be any hope of a peaceful world.

The United States has an enormous responsibility to defend and protect the freedom our forefathers fashioned for us, and to never let any military force take our freedom, or any political force coerce or persuade us to surrender our freedom to an international body of well-meaning but misguided globalists.

New Internet treaty readied

Unlike most recent international treaties, this new Internet Treaty was developed in relative secrecy, not by the United Nations, but by the Council of Europe a 43 nation alliance, with the United States, Canada, and Japan participating as "observers."

The treaty has been under development by a special committee of the Council of Europe since 1997, but their work was classified, until recently. The document evolved through 27 drafts before being approved by the committee June 22, 2001.

The United States has been involved in the negotiations since the beginning. Representatives from the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce have participated in the U.S. delegation.

The treaty seeks to control internet crimes by requiring participating nations to create a specific, uniform body of laws to deal with unauthorized access, interference, fraud and forgery, child pornography, copyright infringement. Racism, and xenophobia are to be addressed in a separate protocol to be added later.

The working title of the treaty is: "International Convention on Cyber-crime." It has three primary objectives:

Harmonisation of the national laws which define offences;

Definition of investigation and prosecution procedures to cope with global networks; and

Establishment of a rapid and effective system of international co-operation." The treaty addresses these "crimes:"

Offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems: illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference, misuse of devices.

Computer-related offences: forgery and computer fraud.

Content-related offences: production, dissemination and possession of child pornography. A protocol is to cover the propagation of racist and xenophobic ideas over the web.

Offences related to infringement of copyright and related rights: the wide-scale distribution of pirated copies of protected works, etc. The text of the treaty contains 48 Articles and 11 endnotes.

According to the Council's press office:

The Convention embodies basic rules which will make it easier for the police to investigate computer crimes, with the help of new forms of mutual assistance. These include:

preservation of computer-stored data,

preservation and rapid disclosure of data relating to traffic,

system search and seizure,

real-time collection of traffic data, and

interception of content data.

To protect human rights and the principle of proportionality, these rules are subject to the conditions and safeguards provided for in the law of signatory states. Specifically, proceedings may not be started except under certain conditions such as prior authorisation by a judge or another independent authority.

The enforcement rules discussed, say that "the legal authorities and police in one country will be able to collect computer-based evidence for police in another ..." Articles 18 through 21 detail how service providers must be compelled to provide subscriber information and data; collect real-time data as requested by "competent authorities," and keep such collection confidential. Article 19 authorizes search and seizure of equipment and data.

Information about this treaty, as limited as it has been, has caused an immediate response from the Internet user community. An international coalition of 28 organizations from the United States, France, Britain, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Austria, the Netherlands, and Denmark has notified the Council of its opposition to the treaty.

In a letter to the Council, The Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC) claims that the treaty is little more than a "wish list" for law enforcement.

The group is concerned that the U.S. Department of Justice is using the treaty process to force Congress to enact laws to broaden police power, that Congress has rejected in the past. "Police agencies and powerful private interests acting outside of the democratic means of accountability have sought to use a closed process to establish rules that will have the effect of binding legislation," the GILC stated in its letter.

Questions arise about who, exactly, will decide which content is "racist" or "xenophobic?" Will internet service providers be held liable for the content on websites for which they serve only as host? How can internet users' privacy rights be protected as required by the Fourth Amendment?

More to the point: should any governmental authority "police" the content of web sites? First Amendment advocates recoil at the suggestion of a national, or an international police force to examine internet content. The Council of Europe says it is necessary to catch crooks, and prevent "hate speech."

The contrast between the U.S., and European standards of free speech is demonstrated in the language of the First Amendment, compared to the language of the U.N. Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The First Amendment says: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..."

The U.N. Covenant, on the other hand, which, incidentally, is referenced in the preamble to the cyber-crime treaty, says in Article 19:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary ...

This treaty is not the first attempt by the international community to control the Internet. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has gone through a tumultuous process attempting to gain some measure of control. WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) has also struggled unsuccessfully with measures aimed at controlling the exploding Internet phenomenon.

An Internet systems administrator, identified as "h2odragon," who has carefully followed the growth of the Internet for more than a decade, says that "these efforts are like trying to cap a geyser. Every time a new control is proposed, the Internet blasts-off again and leaves the would-be controllers scrambling for a new grip."

The current effort by the Council of Europe may gain some traction. Since the Council was created in 1949, it has developed more than 170 treaties and international agreements that are now in force.

The Council is not the same thing as the European Union. The Council was created to fulfill Winston Churchill's dream of a "United States of Europe," which he advocated as early as 1946.

To bring the treaty into force, the draft must first be approved by the leadership of the Council of Europe, then ratified by only five of the participating nations.

The United States has not yet officially signed the treaty. The U.S. delegation accepted the draft finalized on June 22, with a noted reservation regarding Article 41, the "federal clause." If the U.S. delegation can get its concerns on this clause satisfied, the Bush administration is expected to send the treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

The Council of Europe's 43 member states* helped to prepare the text, and Canada, the United States, Japan which have observer status and South Africa were also actively involved. They will all be able to sign the Convention, which will cover most of the world's data traffic.

*Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.


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