The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, August 28, 1997

Hate crime on Internet hard to stop

Lawyer for i-STAR tells police chiefs code of ethics planned

by Dave Rogers

Hate propaganda on the Internet is proliferating at such a rate that the best way to control it is for Internet service providers to police themselves, a lawyer for iSTAR Internet Inc. has told a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. Margo Langford said Tuesday that Canadian service providers plan to develop a code of ethics by mid-September and can control the information stored on their own computers.

In July, iSTAR quietly blocked access to sites it says provide illegal content, such as child pornography or bestiality. After months of customer complaints and discussions with police, including the RCMP, Canada's largest Internet provider decided it would not permit the use of its network for illegal purposes. Canada has not enacted any laws regulating the Internet. Government bodies have said the diffuse structure of the Internet makes it next to impossible to monitor.

Providers can't be responsible ``Internet service providers can decide which newsgroups to carry and what web sites they will have'', Langford said. ``We won't knowingly carry illegal material.''

``But any government move to make service providers responsible for all the material would have a chilling effect on the industry. The majority of the 48 local providers would have difficulty monitoring all hate propaganda. It would kill the industry.''

Langford said parents and schools can use computer software to screen out hate propaganda, but it would take ``more than an army'' to monitor the millions of web sites and more than 20,000 newsgroups on the Internet.

Internet service providers will co-operate with police officers investigating hate crime on the Internet because they don't want their computers seized, Langford said.

``We are going to look at material to determine what is illegal under the Criminal Code'', Langford said. ``If there is a problem with a web site on iSTAR, we would ask the person to remove it, and if they didn't, we would take it off.''

``We don't want the police coming in and seizing our servers. That would be a disaster that would shut us down coast to coast. It (a seizure) would be expensive because these things cost $60,000 each.''

Sgt. Tom Whittaker of the Ontario Provincial Police intelligence section told the police chiefs there has been a ``remarkable increase'' in hate propaganda on the Internet advocating genocide or inciting hatred against ethnic minorities.

Whittaker said such propaganda may originate in Canada and be distributed by U.S. Internet service providers under fictitious names, making it a serious problem for law-enforcement agencies. Karen Mock, director of the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada, said Canada's Heritage Front, Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, and racist groups such as White Aryan Resistance, Aryan Nations, the Ku Klux Klan, and the National Alliance are among the organizations using the Internet to distribute hate propaganda.

Screening for hate Mock said B'nai Brith is pleased that Internet service providers plan to screen hate propaganda, but public education is needed so people will recognize and report it to authorities.

Later in the day, Bob Runciman, Ontario Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services, said the Ontario government will develop a computerized information management system that will integrate all justice records used by police, prosecutors, the courts, prisons, probation, and parole offices. Within four years, the new offender-management system will replace separate paper records and permit police, prosecutors, judges, corrections officials, and probation and parole officers to share information.

The issue:
Hate crime on the Internet.
What's new:
Hate propaganda on the Internet is proliferating at such a rate and is so difficult to trace that no law enforcement agency can hope to control it, a meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police was told Tuesday. Internet service providers and the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada suggest public co-operation to report hate propaganda and self-regulation by companies that provide computer users with access to the Net.
What's next:
Canadian Internet-service providers hope to develop a code of ethics before mid-September.

Copyright © 1996 by The Ottawa Citizen. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.