FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Saturday, November 9, 1996
Désolé, une version française de ce communiqué de presse n'est pas disponible en ce moment.
Events Leading to Removal of Lucien Bouchard "Hate" Web Page
At 10:36 P.M. on Monday, November 4, 1996, a customer of the Ottawa location of Information Gateway Services (IGS), an Internet service provider, uploaded to his personal web account a page entitled "I Hate Lucien Bouchard". The page was subsequently updated at 9:45 P.M. on Tuesday, November 5, 1996. The contents of the page before the update are unknown, however since November 5th, the text on the page has read as follows:
"Lucien Bouchard is the closest thing to Hitler that Canada has ever known. The death of this man will be the salvation of all true patriots of Canada."
The text of the web page also encouraged readers to send comments to the author, although he had not posted any comments publicly on the page before it was blocked.
IGS was not aware of the page being posted until about 10:30 A.M. on Friday, November 8, 1996 when the company's Webmaster started receiving email messages from irate Internet users, mostly from Quebec. The address of the web site was reportedly submitted to Alta Vista, a popular Internet search engine, and featured in an article in Le Journal de Montréal.
After examining the page, IGS contacted its customer for his comments. He admitted over the phone that he had posted the page, but did not feel that the content was illegal. His intention was only to start a debate on the integrity of the Premier. Still, IGS decided to contact both its lawyer and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their opinions.
The lawyer's opinion was that the first sentence was "questionable" and likely offensive to many people, but that it was not an illegal statement. He said that the second sentence could be construed as a call for Bouchard's death and that in his opinion, it was an illegal statement. Furthermore, the author's request for comments from other Bouchard haters, which was titled by the author "Email me with your HATE!", meant that the page fell under Canada's hate literature laws.
IGS contacted the Computer Crime branch of the RCMP to inform the police of the situation and to ask whether the author of the page had contravened any laws. An officer called back a short time later and advised that the page should be removed pending further investigation. The case had also been handed over to the Ontario Provincial Police and the Quebec Police Force.
On the advice of both its legal counsel and the RCMP, IGS proceeded to block access to its customer's web site. The decision was not influenced by the opinions of any of its employees, customers, nor Internet users who conveyed their comments. IGS felt that it had no choice but to remove the material posted by the user on the company's web server.
After blocking the page, IGS contacted the OPP in order to provide investigators with as much information as possible. As of this writing, the case is still under investigation.
This customer has put IGS in a precarious position. Had the Internet service provider not pulled the page, it may have contravened Canadian law by hosting the page on its equipment. On the other hand, some have viewed the company's actions as censorship. IGS has never practiced censorship in the past, and will not start to do so now. However, it goes without saying that IGS will always abide by the law and will rely on legal counsel for advice in that regard.
We at IGS welcome your comments on this incident, and free speech and censorship issues in general. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.