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[FYI] António Vitorino of CEC on "The Internet and the changing face of hate"
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Speech by António Vitorino European Commissioner for Justice and Home
affairs "The Internet and the changing face of hate" Berlin, 26 June
DN: SPEECH/00/239 Date: 2000-06-26
Word Processed: EN
Speech by António Vitorino
European Commissioner for Justice and Home affairs
"The Internet and the changing face of hate"
Berlin, 26 June 2000
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In response to a request from the International League against Racism
and anti-Semitism and the Union of Jewish students in France, a
French Court ordered the US Company YAHOO! to prevent French Internet
users from using its server for the purpose of obtaining nazi
materials. The Court justified its decision by the fact that
"exposition for sale of Nazi materials was against the French law".
This decision gave rise to a vigorous reaction of the founder of
Yahoo! International. He had agreed to submit Yahoo!France to the
provisions of the French law and to prohibit nazi web-site on
Yahoo!France, but sees no reason to respect those provisions in the
Many pro-nazis groups take the opportunity to move home pages on
servers out of the EU, in order to sell all kind of materials, from
books to insignia, and to develop racist or xenophobic theory.
My second example concerns hooligans and extreme right organisations
using e-mail and the Internet to encourage violent actions and racist
behaviours toward players and fans from ethnic and cultural
minorities. The European Monitoring Centre on racism and xenophobia
reported that in the run-up to the current Euro 2000 competition and
in connection with the UEFA Cup final between Arsenal and Galatasaray
in Copenhagen, various groups with links to neo-nazis used the
Internet to mobilise forces for racist violence across national
Legal action against harmful or illegal activities is first and
foremost a clear responsibility of each State. However, because of
the nature of the Internet, there are serious limits to what any
country can achieve on its own. The two examples I just mentioned
clearly show that a pure national solution is not sufficient. The
Internet is an international phenomenon in every sense of the word
and any effective response will hinge on high levels of international
The global threat from computer-related crime has already been
recognised and Action is underway in a number of international fora
outside the European Union including the G-8, the Council of Europe,
the OECD and the United Nations.
The Commission attaches crucial importance to the negotiations of a
draft Convention on Cyber-crime being undertaking in the Council of
Europe, on which in May 1999 the Council adopted a Common Position.
These negotiations will hopefully be completed by the end of this
In December 1997 the G8 nations adopted a statement of principles and
a 10-point action plan to combat high tech crime. The Commission
actively contributes to the work carried out within this framework.
It is for example part of the G8 24 hours-points of contact network.
Recently in May 2000, the G8 held a Conference in Paris on safety and
confidence in cyberspace, urging law enforcement and industry to work
together. The outcome of the conference has shown full agreement that
the fight against Cybercrime is one of the top priorities on the
Also within the European Union, a number of instruments have been
adopted to support the fight against cyber-crime. In January 1999
Council and Parliament adopted the Multiannual Action Plan on
promoting safer use of the Internet by combating illegal and harmful
content on global networks. The purpose of the Internet Action Plan
is to provide a financial framework for the various EU initiatives on
how to deal with undesirable content on the Internet. A financial
plan running to the end of 2002 has been put in place. It is managed
by the European Commission to support non-regulatory initiatives,
created in close co-operation with industry, Member States and users,
for promoting safer use of the Internet.
The 1999 Special European Council on Justice and Home Affairs of
Tampere has sent a strong signal to step up a unionwide fight against
transnational crime. While underlining the need to protect the
freedom and legal rights of individual and economic operators, the
Heads of States and Governments clearly expressed their wish that
maximum benefit should be derived from co-operation between Member
States authorities. In particular, the Council agreed that common
definitions, incriminations and sanctions should be focused in the
first instance on a limited number of sectors including high tech
The European Commission will present this year a collection of ideas
on how to design a comprehensive policy in the context of Information
Society and Freedom, Security and Justice objectives in the EU. Our
discussion within the Commission is not yet finalised, but I would
like to inform you about the main elements of our strategy, which are
due to combine law issues and non-legislative measures.
The Commission will propose this year an initiative in the area of
child pornography on the Internet as part of a wider package of
proposals, which will also cover issues associated with the sexual
exploitation of children and trafficking in human beings. We will
also examine, after this year's adoption of the report on the Joint
Action on racism and xenophobia, the opportunity to propose a similar
initiative concerning the fight against this type of crime.
Existing forms of mutual assistance are entirely inadequate for fast-
moving and complex investigations on the Internet. In order to
improve the effectiveness of co-operation to investigate and
prosecute the perpetrators of criminal offences on the Internet there
may be scope to apply mutual recognition principles to the
preservation of traffic data and the search and seizure of data on
The Commission also believes that training of law enforcement staff
on high tech crime issues and human rights issues is a major element
in this context. It intends therefore to encourage closer
collaboration with Internet Service Providers and telecommunication
A specific area in which a new initiative may be required is forensic
research in order to develop scientific protocols for searching
computers, analysing data and maintaining the authenticity and
evidence value of retrieved data.
Improved information and statistics on computer-related crime is also
needed in order to obtain a better picture of the nature and extent
of computer crime in the Member States. In this context, I welcome
the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia's initiative
to investigate the use of the Internet to encourage violent and
racist behaviour at football matches against players and fans from
Close co-operation between law enforcement agencies, Internet Service
Providers, telecommunications operators and data protection
authorities is an indispensable element to fight effectively computer
related crime as I already said at the beginning. There are excellent
examples of co-operation at national level, but there is certainly
room for improved co-operation at European level to find balanced
solutions to the complex policy and technical issues in this area.
Finally industry-led initiatives also deserve encourgament. Industry
hotlines, which often focus on child pornography, can usefully be
extended to cover other forms of illegal and harmful content as e.g.
racism and xenophobia. Industry self-regulation needs to involve the
broadest possible number of industries and other interested parties.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Racism, xenophobia and intolerance are diametrically opposed to
everything that Europe stands for in terms of human dignity, mutual
respect and understanding and citizenship in the broadest sense.
We will not find answers to all the complex questions arising in the
coming days. But it is clear that in the globalised world of today
many of them will require global efforts by all actors concerned.
I am convinced that the "Berlin Declaration" Minister Däubler-Gmelin
will propose on the occasion of this conference will give a vital
impetus to our debate and that it will help us in our aim to remove
the scourge of racism from the Information Society while preserving
the values of the right of privacy and individual freedom.
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