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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

     TXT: EN
     PDF: EN
     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

Mr President, 

Minister Däubler-Gmelin, 

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 
European agenda.  

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 Internet.  

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 
ethnic minorities.  

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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