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Re: Human rights/censorship conflict

On Fri, 17 Oct 1997 15:00:45 +0100, Rigo Wenning wrote:

>>Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is exposing identifiable groups to hatred or
>>contempt through material on his Web site, a Canadian Human Rights
>>Commission tribunal has been told.

Irgendwie schon paradox, dass sich ausgerechnet eine "Human Rights
Commission" - von der man eigentlich das Gegenteil erwarten würde - mit der
Einschränkung der freien Meinungsäußerung beschäftigt.

Zu diesem Thema eine Presseerklärung der EFC:


(For immediate release --- Thursday, October 16, 1997)

	Electronic Frontier Canada says the Canadian Human Rights
	Commission should not attempt to control Internet content

Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC), Canada's premier organization devoted to
the protection of freedom of expression in cyberspace, is opposed to the
Canadian Human Rights Commission's current attempt to control the flow of
information on the Internet.

In a series of hearings that began in Toronto on October 14th, a Human Rights
Tribunal will attempt to decide if a California web site spreading
Ernst Zundel's hateful messages is a discriminatory practice that falls
under the jurisdiction and within the scope of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

EFC's opposition to the Commission's agenda should not be interpreted as
support for Zundel. Like the vast majority of Canadians, EFC finds Zundel's
anti-Semitic views ludicrous, grotesque, and offensive. However, in the
words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, EFC believes that free speech means
"freedom for the thought that we hate."

EFC believes the expression of controversial opinions, no matter how
erroneous or repugnant, should be protected from government censorship
by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Of course, this doesn't mean that all speech is protected," says David
Jones, EFC's president and a professor of computer science at McMaster
University. "The Charter does not, for example, protect fraud, libel, or
death threats, whether over the Internet or not."

"Expressions of opinion, and even claiming that the Holocaust is a hoax,"
adds EFC vice-president Jeffrey Shallit, "should be protected." EFC favours
the repeal of all Canadian laws restricting hate speech.

"Laws intended to restrict 'bad' speech are often too broadly written, and
have the potential to restrict genuine debate," explains Shallit, who is a
computer science professor at the University of Waterloo. "Let's not forget
that the Communications Decency Act was recently found to be unconstitutional
by the U.S. Supreme Court," he says, "in part because it did not
distinguish between 'obscene' speech and speech that was merely 'indecent'."


"I'm sure if the Commission thought it could prove that the Zundelsite fell
within the legal definition of 'hate propaganda', as defined in sections 319
and 320 of the Criminal Code," says Jones, "then this would be a criminal

"Instead," continues Jones, "the worst this Tribunal can decide is that
publishing the web site is a 'discriminatory practice' under the Canadian
Human Rights Act, that 'exposes people to hatred or contempt'." "It's a
broader and more flexible legal concept, and the standard of proof is
not as rigourous because the penalty that can be imposed is less severe."

"But on the other hand," says Jones, "if the Tribunal issues a
cease-and-desist order and the web pages do not go away, Zundel might be
jailed for contempt."

"I question whether it is a distortion of the judicial process, considering
the eventual outcome may be the same, to allow the Commission to attempt to
do through the back door what they could not possibly hope to achieve
through the front door," says Jones.


"This is not about technology, not about jurisdiction, not about regulating
the Internet, and not about setting legal precedents," asserted Bernie Farber
of the Canadian Jewish Congress during a recently televised debate on
CBC Newsworld. "This is about punishing Ernst Zundel," he said.

"I'm sure some people would like to skip the hearing and go straight to the
punishment," says Jones, "but the details really do matter in this case.
This hearing is all about whether a government department can re-interpret
an old law to give itself sweeping new regulatory powers over the Internet."

Section 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act was introduced by Parliament
to control hateful messages on telephone answering machines. "It is too
crude an analogy to suggest that a collection of Internet web pages is the
same thing as an answering machine," says Jones. "The whole context and
inter-connectedness of the web and the way people interact with and navigate
through the medium are different in important and significant ways."

"If Canadians want content on the Internet to be controlled by the
government, then what we need is a broad national debate to decide where we
want to draw the line," suggests Shallit. "Dusting off old pieces of
legislation and misapplying them to this new communication medium is not the
way for Canadians to step into the 21st century."


EFC acknowledges that Canadians need effective strategies for dealing with
controversial or hateful speech, but EFC's position is that the proper
remedy for racist speech is not less speech, but more speech.

EFC gives high praise to hard-working community organizations like
Ken McVay's Nizkor Project, which maintains a huge electronic archive of
material devoted to preserving the history of the Holocaust and dedicated to
the memory of all who died at the hands of the Nazis.

"Instead of banishing the hatemongers to the shadows, or making them martyrs
by giving them an expensive show trial," says Shallit, "the Nizkor Project
shines the intense light of public scrutiny on people like Zundel and
exposes their deceptive messages for what they are - warts and all.
It is an approach that really works."

Another notable web site, run by the McGill Hillel student organization
to support the Jewish student community, provides one of the most extensive
lists of hyperlinks to hate web sites ever compiled.  There purpose,
of course, is not to promote hatred, but to educate people about its
enduring presence in society.

"Electronic Frontier Canada is pleased to announce donations to both the
Nizkor Project and McGill Hillel Student Centre," said EFC president
David Jones, "to encourage them to continue their efforts in dealing with
hateful content on the Internet.  In our view, theirs is the only approach
that has had any significant success."


"At the end of the day," says Jones, "no matter what the Tribunal decides,
the Canadian government cannot possibly hope to control the flow of
information on the Net."

"Sure, they can go ahead and lock Zundel behind bars, if they decide the law
allows it," concedes Jones, "but once the information is on the Net, it's
not going to disappear."


EFC Contact Information:

Electronic Frontier Canada

     Dr. David Jones, djones@efc.ca
          phone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 24689, fax: (905) 546-9995
     Dr. Jeffrey Shallit, shallit@efc.ca
          phone: (519) 888-4804, fax: (519) 885-1208
     Dr. Richard Rosenberg, rosen@efc.ca
          phone: (604) 822-4142, fax: (604) 822-5485

     Electronic Frontier Canada's, online archives:
          URL: http://www.efc.ca

Related Web Sites:

Zundelsite - http://www.webcom.com/~ezundel/
     The controversial web site that is the focus of the hearings.

Related Documents:

Canadian Human Rights Act
     You'll want to refer to sections 13 and 40, in particular.

Tribunal hears Internet hate case
     The CHRC's press release announcing the hearing (03oct97).

Additional Contact Information:

Lise Dessaint
Canadian Human Rights Commission
     web:   http://www.chrc.ca/
     email: info.com@chrc.ca
     phone: (613) 943-9119
     phone: (613) 995-1151
     phone: (416) 973-5527

Bernie Farber
Canadian Jewish Congress
     phone: (416) 635-2883

Sol Littman
Simon Wiesenthal Center
     phone: (416) 864-9735

B'nai Brith, League for Human Rights
     phone: (416) 633-6224

Ken McVay
director, Nizkor Project
     web:   http://www.nizkor.org/
     email: kmcvay@nizkor.org
     phone: (604) 724-3186

Steven Spodek
executive director, McGill Hillel
     web:   http://www.vir.com/Shalom/intro.html
     email: hillel@vir.com
     phone: (514) 845-9171