Marquette Warrior: Censoring the ‘Net

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Censoring the ‘Net

From USA Today:
STRASBOURG, France (AP) -- Canada became the first non-European country Friday to sign up to combat “cyberhate,” the online dissemination of xenophobic propaganda.

Canada signed an additional protocol to the international cybercrime convention, drafted in 2001 by the Council of Europe.

Signed by several dozen countries, including Canada, the United States, South Africa and Japan, the convention names four types of cybercrime: confidentiality offenses, notably breaking into computers; fraud and forgery; content violations, such as child pornography and racism; and copyright offenses.

The treaty aims to speed up international cooperation in investigations and extraditions.

The additional protocol widens the scope of the convention to combat xenophobic propaganda and calls on countries to criminalize its distribution via computer as well as Internet sites that deny or approve of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The cybercrime convention constitutes a basis for Canada’s law criminalizing racist hatred on the Internet, said Canada’s Justice Minister Irwin Cotler after signing the additional protocol.

“No one country alone can combat racist hate, particularly cyberhate,” Cotler said. “This is an anonymous, borderless, faceless crime. We’ve gone from five hate sites on the Internet in 1995 to 5,000 in 2005. These are horrific sites. They’re used for purposes of recruitment. They particularly target the young. It is predatory hate of the worst kind.”

Cotler said international treaties facilitating extradition and prosecution of perpetrators of hate crimes on the Internet are particularly important in the light of Thursday’s deadly attacks on public transport in London.

“We believe that incitement to hatred is the most proximate cause of terrorism itself. Therefore, if you’re combating incitement to hatred, you’re combating terrorism,” he said.
There is plenty that obviously wrong with this. But one thing that is wrong but not so obvious is that the United States might be required to extradite people viewed, by other nations, to be guilty of “hate speech.”

Further, the argument that hate speech leads to terrorism and that it’s thus OK to shut it up echos one of the real abuses of the Patriot Act -- as opposed to “abuses” cooked up by the ACLU. Activity that’s really just ordinary criminal activity gets defined as “terrorism” so that authorities have more latitude to prosecute it.

But here, it seems that mere speech is being criminalized.

Anybody who thinks that only genuinely noxious speech will be affected isn’t up to date on how “hate speech” is defined.


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