1998 AUDIT of Antisemitic Incidents
League for Human Rights of B'NAI BRITH CANADA
[excerpt: pp. 45 - 48]
HATE ON THE INTERNET
Through the Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, B'nai Brith has been on the cutting edge of informing the public to the dangers of online hate for the past several years. The League, while monitoring [so-called] hate on the Internet, does not document all antisemitic occurrences, as this would be impossible. The Audit does however include specifically targeted emails and threats. For example a web page stating that Jews control the world is not counted. A public threat or private email threat against an individual, based on the sole fact that individual is Jewish, is documented as an incident.
Although not mentioned in the Audit, two specific antisemitic web sites came to the attention of the Canadian Jewish community. Jew Watch, a vehemently antisemitic web site, was being listed by an Internet search engine under the "Jewish Resources" selection. The Ottawa office of B'nai Brith Canada complained to the search engine and it was removed from the "Jewish Resources" section. A second web site of concern was called the 'Ressources Patriotiqtse- Euro-Quebecoises.' The Simon Weisenthal Center complained to the Quebec police and to the service provider about the web site's [alledged] antisemitic content. The service provider was extremely helpful and removed the site, thereby demonstrating what we hope will be a growing trend of service providers: taking responsibility for the content of the sites they host.
For more than a year, B'nai Brith Canada had been concerned about racist, sexist, homophobic and antisemitic postings that had been appearing on the Now Magazine Readers' Forum, a discussion group where individuals could meet online and discuss a variety of issues. Despite letters from the League, and from the City of Toronto's Community Advisory Commitee on Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism, Now Magazine, refused to edit the messages, feeling it was a freedom of speech issue. Instead the magazine issued the following disclaimer beneath each posting:
[ graphic of ON readers forum posting ]
The death threat against Jews in general and Frank Dimant specifically
were part of an alarming trend in the proliferation of hate on the Internet
in 1998. Several specifically targeted individuals and Jewish organizations
across Canada received antisemitic email messages, Furthermore, these antisemitic
Internet trends in Canada are symbolic of the general global
proliferation of hate material on Newsgroups, Internet chat systems and the World Wide Web. In addition to the ongoing Zundel case, which is described in the Hate Propeganda and Holocaust Denial section of this Audit, there were several successful interventions in countering hate on the Internet in 1998, with B'nai Brith Canada continuing to lead the way in both educational and legislative initiatives.
In March 1998, B'nai Brith Canada's honourary Senior Legal Counsel, David Matas, met with BC Tel, urging the phone company to adopt a policy against the proliferation of hate speech on the Internet. A client of BC Tel, Fairview Technology Center Ltd. (FTCNet), owned by Bernard Klatt of Oliver, B.C. was providing Internet service to several web sites that [in the opinion of some jews] promote racism, antisemitism and anti-immigrant diatribes, most notably The Heritage Front, the Euro-Christian Defense League and the Charlemagne HammerSkins. The Charlemagne HammerSkins, a virulently white supremacist racist group, have been subject to police action in both Britain and in France where 13 people were charged with provoking racial hatred and uttering threats on the web site.
Sections 318-320 of the Canada Criminal Code specifically limit hate speech and have been upheld as constitutional. In addition, the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits the use of telephonic devices [the fatuous 'Internet is a telephone claim'] to promote hatred. B'nai Brith Canada requested that BC Tel use preventative strategies by adopting a policy, similar to America Online (AOL) that has voluntarily discontinued access to the Internet by those "Web sites that contain illegal or racist material. In the meeting with BC Tel, Matas also cited BC Tel's own "Telephone terms of service" policy which clearly gives the company the right to terminate service on the grounds of offensive usage.
BC Tel was not willing to pull the plug on Fairview nor to request that Fairview owner, Bernard Klatt remove the [alledgedly] illegal materials from his server. BC Tel referred the matter to the Attorney General of British Colunibia, the R.C.M.P, and local police.
In the midst of the controversy, Nirmal Singh Gill, a Sikh in B.C. was beaten by five individuals who are alleged to be members of the extremist/racist group "White Power" apparently linked to the Heritage Front, Northern Hammerskins and Aryan Nations.
Eventually, due to pressure from B'nai Brith Canada and others, BC Tel added a liability clause to Klatt's contract, thereby making him responsible for any illicit material [posted by any customer] housed on his server at the Fairview Technology Centre Ltd. Bernard Klatt decided nor to renew his contract with BC Tel. [amazing?!]
B'nai Brith Canada commended the constructive participation of BC Tel in dealing with this issue. By making Klatt responsible for [all customer uploaded material] what was housed on his server, a blow was struck against hate on the Internet and a precedent was set in terms of placing responsibility with Internet Service Providers for [the actions of their customers and] the services that they deliver.
B'nai Brith also played a vital role in hearings on hate on the Internet held by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecomunication Commission (CRTC) in 1998. B'nai Brith Canada recommended no blanket regulation by the Federal broadcasting regulatory body. Rather, it urged that the enforcement of the prohibition against exposure to hatred or contempt through the Internet should fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and that the federal and provincial governments and the Internet industry, support public education in Internet literacy. Further, B'nai Brith asked that the CRTC not consider that the "Internet" fall within the definition of "broadcasting," but added that the language of the relevant sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be updated to ensure that the Commission can deal with complaints about illegal hate material on the net and to prevent its jurisdiction from being defeated due to technicalities. [B'nai Brith is worried about losing the CHRC v. Zundelsite case.]
In its brief to the CRTC, B'nai Brith also strongly recommended that the Internet service and connectivity providers develop self-regulating mechanisms for reviewing complaints about illegal content, and that those who post such materials be subject to sanctions from the industry. In addition, B'nai Brith Canada urged governments and industry to support the development of curricula [promoting B'nai Brith censorship propaganda?] and information about the Internet in order to teach analytical skills in using and evaluating material posted on the Internet and to promote understanding of Canadian values on diversity, as well as Canadian law on hate and hate propaganda.
Through the Institute for International Affairs and the League for Human
Rights, B'nai Brith Canada has been at the forefront of efforts to alert
the Canadian Government and the public to the dangers posed by the unfettered
abuse [freedom of expression] of the Internet
by [so-called] hatemongers, and to develop
means to combat such abuse. In September, 1997, B'nai Brith Canada convened
an International Symposium on Hate on the Internet, the recommendations
from which have provided much of the framework for Canadian efforts to
counter illegal Internet activity. In March 1998, B'nai Brith hosted a
follow up symposium, The Web of Hate in Edmonton to strengthen the Western
pro-active initiatives by police, educators, legislators, academics,
and service providers. B'nai Brith will host a Second International Symposium
on Hate on the Internet from March 20-23, 1999 that will bring together
Brith's favorite pets- the ARA] and law
enforcement officials to evaluate the progress made over the last 18
months and to develop innovative cooperative strategies to counter this
dangerous problem internationally.
Toronto Star March 21 '99
Providers must ban hate on Internet, activists say
But censorship not the answer, say free-speech advocates
Toronto Star March 22 '99
Global war waged on `cyberhate'
Experts share combat strategies