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Racism on Internet

Racism on Internet

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Published by Council of Europe
Racism was a pressing social problem long before the emergence of the digital age. The advancement of digital communication technologies such as the Internet has, however, added a new dimension to this problem by providing individuals and organisations with modern and powerful means to propagate racism and xenophobia. The use of the Internet as an instrument for the widespread dissemination of racist content is assessed in detail by the author.
The problem of racist content on the Internet has naturally prompted vigorous responses from a variety of agents, including governments, supranational and international organisations and from the private sector. This book also provides a detailed critical overview of these regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives.
Racism was a pressing social problem long before the emergence of the digital age. The advancement of digital communication technologies such as the Internet has, however, added a new dimension to this problem by providing individuals and organisations with modern and powerful means to propagate racism and xenophobia. The use of the Internet as an instrument for the widespread dissemination of racist content is assessed in detail by the author.
The problem of racist content on the Internet has naturally prompted vigorous responses from a variety of agents, including governments, supranational and international organisations and from the private sector. This book also provides a detailed critical overview of these regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives.

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Published by: Council of Europe on Oct 25, 2010
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7
1. Introduction
Racism was a pressing social problem long before the emergence of the digital age. The advancement of digital communication technologies such as the Internet has,however, added a new dimension to this problem by providing individuals andorganisations with modern and powerful means to support racism and xenophobia. The use of the Internet as an instrument for the widespread dissemination of racistcontent is outlined in this introductory chapter. A typology of racist content on theInternet will also be provided.
 There is no generally agreed definition of “hate speech” or “racist content”.Generally, speech that incites or promotes hatred towards individuals, on thebasis of their race, colour, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, sexual prefer-ence, disability, and other forms of individual discrimination can constitute “hatespeech”. In 1997, a Council of Europe recommendation on hate speech statedthat the term “hate speech” should be understood as covering “all forms of expres-sion which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including intoleranceexpressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination andhostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin”.
1
TheEuropean Court of Human Rights refers to “all forms of expression which spread,incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance (including religiousintolerance)”
2
as “hate speech” but “only statements which promote a certainlevel of violence qualify as hate speech”.
3
Racism, on the other hand, is describedby the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) as “the belief that a ground such as race, colour, language, religion, nationality or national orethnic origin justifies contempt for a person or a group of persons, or the notionof superiority of a person or a group of persons”.
4
It should, however, be noted
1. Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers, Recommendation No. R (97) 20.2
. Gündüz v. Turkey 
,
 
Application No. 35071/97 judgment of 4 December 2003, para. 40. See furtherEuropean Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Report on the relationshipbetween freedom of expression and freedom of religion: the issue of regulation and prosecution of blasphemy, religious insult and incitement to religious hatred, adopted by the Venice Commissionat its 76th Plenary Session (Venice, 17-18 October 2008), CDL-AD(2008)026, at www.venice.coe.int/docs/2008/CDL-AD(2008)026-e.pdf.3. Ibid.4. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) General Policy RecommendationNo. 7 on national legislation to combat racism and racial discrimination, adopted by ECRI on13 December 2002.
 
8
Racism on the Internet 
that “such speech does not necessarily imply the expression of ‘hate’ or emotions.Racial discourse may be concealed in statements that at first sight appear rationalor routine”.
5
However, disagreements and variations exist on these definitions, and the con-tent of “hate speech” or “racist content” could be broader based upon cultural,political, moral and religious differences around the world, and perhaps moreevidently within the European region. Such differences, combined with historical,legal, and constitutional background, often lead into the adoption of differentlegal measures to deal with such content, and variations also exist with regardsto what constitutes criminal conduct. While states such as France, Germany,Austria, and Belgium criminalise the denial of the Jewish Holocaust, otherEuropean states such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Italy do not havesimilar criminal provisions.Racism and the dissemination of ideas based on hatred and racial superioritywere a pressing social problem prior to the emergence of the information ageand digital communications. Long before the Internet entered our homes, racistgroups made use of other communication tools including the telephone networksas far back as the 1970s. For example, the Western Guard Party, a white suprema-cist neo-Nazi group based in Toronto, Canada, had a telephone answering machinewhich was used to propagate hatred,
6
and was the subject matter of a long legaldispute in the late 1980s.
7
The advancement of digital communication technolo-gies such as the Internet has, however, added a new dimension to this problemby providing individuals and organisations “with modern and powerful means tosupport racism and xenophobia”.
8
Historically, concerns about “digital hate” date back to the mid 1980s and relateto the documented use of computers, computer bulletin boards and networksto disseminate racist views and content.
9
According to the Simon Wiesenthal
5. See Council of Europe Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH), Committee of Experts forthe Development of Human Rights (DH-DEV), Working Group A, Report on “hate speech, documentGT-DH-DEV A(2006)008, Strasbourg, 9 February 2007, at www.coe.int/t/e/human_rights/, para. 4.6. Canadian Human Rights Commission,
Hate on the Net 
(Ottawa: Association for Canadian Studies,Spring 2006) at 4,atwww.chrc-ccdp.ca/pdf/HateOnInternet_bil.pdf .7
. Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Taylor 
[1990] 3 S.C.R. 892 (Prohibition on telephone hatemessages in section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act,
 
S.C. 1976-77, c. 33 was justifiable). Seealso
Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Canadian Liberty Net 
[1998] 1 S.C.R. 626 and
Canada(Human Rights Commission) v. Heritage Front 
[1994] F.C.J. No. 2010 (T.D.) (QL).8. Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers, Explanatory Report of the Additional Protocol to theConvention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic naturecommitted through computer systems, (2002) at para. 3, at http://conventions.coe.int/.9. See “‘Neo-Nazis Inspire White Supremacists”,
The Washington Post 
(26 December 1984) (disseminationof racist comments through computer bulletin boards in North America). See also Anti-DefamationLeague, Report, “Computerized Networks of Hate”
 
(January 1985).
 
9
Introduction
Centers “Online Terror and Hate: The First Decade” report,
10
George Dietz, a WestVirginia neo-Nazi, was already using the original computer bulletin boards sys-tems (BBS) in 1983, and Dietz’s postings served as a model for later websites.Louis Beam’s Aryan Liberty Net was subsequently launched in the US BBS in 1984,as well as the militia movement.
11
In Germany, the “right-wing extremist organ-isations first used bulletin board systems and other electronic communicationsystems in the early 1990s”.
12
The BBS movement quickly jumped on the Internetin the mid 1990s and white supremacist website StormFront was launched in1995 in the US by former Ku Klux Klan member Don Black with the intention of creating a community around the white power movement, while Ernst Zündel’sHolocaust Denial website was launched during 1998 in Canada.New methods of dissemination of anti-Semitic and revisionist propaganda aboutthe Holocaust (including video games, computer programs and the Minitel sys-tem in France) were noted by a United Nations Secretary-General report in 1994,
13
 and the growing use of modern electronic media in international communica-tions between right-wing radical groups (computer disks, databanks, etc.) wasrecorded in 1995.
14
Offi cially the use of electronic mail and the Internet was firstobserved as a growing trend amongst racist organisations to spread racist orxenophobic propaganda in 1996.
15
The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporaryforms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in his1997 report declared that:
 The Internet has become the new battleground in the fight to influence public opin-ion. While it is still far behind newspapers, magazines, radio and television in thesize of its audience, the Internet has already captured the imagination of peoplewith a message, including purveyors of hate, racists and anti-Semites.
16
10. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, iReport: “Online Terror and Hate: The First Decade”, May 2008, atwww.wiesenthal.com/ireport.11. Ibid.12. Council of Europe, Octopus Programme,
Organised Crime in Europe: The Threat of Cybercrime:Situation Report 2004
(Strasbourg, 2005), Council of Europe Publishing, p. 138.13. Secretary-General,
Elimination Of Racism And Racial Discrimination
, UN GA, 49th Sess., UN Doc.A/49/677 (1994).14. Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo, Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Second Decadeto Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination – Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on contempor-ary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, CHR Res. 1994/64, UNESCOR, 51st Sess., UN Doc. E/CN.4/1995/78 (1995).15. Secretary-General, Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination: Measures to combat con-temporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, UN GA, 51stSess., UN Doc. A/51/301 (1996).16. Maurice Glélé-Ahanhanzo, Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Second Decadeto Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination – Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on contempor-ary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, CHR Res. 1996/21, UNESCOR, 53rd Sess., UN Doc. E/CN.4/1997/71 (1997).

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