Alphabetical site index (text)
"The conference's co-organizers, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center named after the Austrian Nazi hunter, said while there was just one Web site promoting hate in 1995, there were now over 2,000."
News Agency, June 26, 2000
Reuters, June 26, 2000 3:22 PM PT
Conference cracks down on web hate
BERLIN -- German President Johannes Rau called on Monday for a system of rules to govern the Internet to combat the rise in Web sites promoting racism and xenophobia.
"We need a framework that sets boundaries for the use of modern information technology," Rau said at the start of a two-day conference in Berlin on hate-speech on the Internet.
"We cannot just stand by and watch while opponents of human rights and those contemptuous of democracy exploit these new technological possibilities," said Rau, whose office is primarily ceremonial.
The conference's co-organizers, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center named after the Austrian Nazi hunter, left, said while there was just one Web site promoting hate in 1995, there were now over 2,000.
In Germany alone the number of extreme right-wing home pages has jumped to 330 this year, about 10 times more than four years ago, the country's internal security watchdog says.
'To stop hate on the Internet we need European initiatives, but also action that reaches beyond Europe' -- Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin
Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin told the conference Germany was very worried about the trend.
"To stop hate on the Internet we need European initiatives, but also action that reaches beyond Europe," she said.
European Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Antonio Vitorino agreed. "The Internet is an international phenomenon in every sense of the word and any effective response will hinge on high levels of international cooperation," he said.
Vitorino said there was still a worrying level of racism and xenophobia in Europe and said neo-Nazi groups had moved their home pages to servers outside the continent to sell their books and insignia and promote far-right theories.
Vitorino told the conference he hoped a draft European convention on crimes in cyberspace would be completed by the end of this year and said the Commission would also propose an initiative against child pornography on the Internet and discuss similar moves against hate promoted on the Web.
Robert Cailliau, the co-inventor of the World Wide Web, repeated calls for all Internet users to be licensed.
'I am opposed to censorship by the industry itself, but sites and authors should be registered.' -- Robert Cailliau, co-inventor of the Web
"I am opposed to censorship by the industry itself, but sites and authors should be registered," said Cailliau, who designed the Web with Briton Tim Berners-Lee in 1990.
"The legal framework must be global," he added.
Ulrich Sieber, professor of information law at Munich University, agreed for the need for a global approach, but noted it could be difficult given the strength of the clause in the U.S. constitution protecting free speech.
"The Internet is a global medium so we need global strategies," Sieber said.
"Most of the countries in Europe have gone further than the United States. I respect the U.S. constitution, but you would think they could do more to try and find common minimum standards," he said.
On Tuesday Germany's Daeubler-Gmelin is due to propose a declaration suggesting an international minimum standard for the legal treatment of racial hatred and xenophobia in cyberspace as well as a draft code of conduct for the Internet community.
Protected in U.S., banned in Europe, hate speech has free rein on Internet
BERLIN -- As the chairman of Bertelsmann media group Monday trumpeted the power of the World Wide Web to educate and enlighten, a researcher from the Simon Wiesenthal Center used the German Internet provider's services to download a digital copy of Adolf Hitler's racist diatribe Mein Kampf.
The incident wasn't just an embarrassment for Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Middelhoff, whose company is obliged to uphold German laws against hate-mongering in cyberspace. It also was proof that state regulation is relatively powerless to prevent the misuse of technology even in countries that want to do so.
More troubling for Europeans, who are unaccustomed to the sweeping rights of free speech bestowed on U.S. citizens by the First Amendment, is the widening gulf across the Atlantic in attitudes toward curbing Internet traffic that expresses racist extremism. Web sites banned in Europe resurface on the Internet courtesy of the safe haven of the United States, where their sponsors' message is protected speech.
The Holocaust has imprinted on many Europeans, especially Germans, the need to be vigilant against racism and intolerance. And those monitoring the social and political pulse on the continent are distressed with the dual power of the United States to dominate the Internet and protect the rights of those who would deny free speech to others.