The Vancouver Sun
Tuesday, March 31, 1998
page A8

BC Tel Pressed to axe hate website

The phone company has asked human rights groups for more details

by Lori Culbert

BC Tel has not ruled out pulling the plug on an Oliver-based Internet service provider that circulates websites run by racists and hate promoters.

A lawyer representing the Winnipeg based B'nai Brith and an official of a Vancouver anti-racism group met with a BC Tel lawyer Monday to demand the phone company cancel Fairview Technology's access to the Internet.

The human rights groups argue Fairview abuses the Net by carrying intolerant websites.

BC Tel is the middleman, providing the phone line between the Internet and Fairview - a service provider that, in turn, connects Oliver homes to the world wide web.

As a phone company, BC Tel cannot cancel Fairview's phone line because it doesn't like the content of some sites, media relations manager Michelle Gagne said Monday.

But as a network service provider, BC Tel has more flexibilitv to deny Fairview access to the Internet, she said.

BC Tel has asked the human rights groups for more information about the sites to determine if Fairview contravenes content guidelines governing Internet service providers.

"What we need to decide is ... whether it would be appropriate on our part to cease [Fairview's] service if they're not meeting the terms of our contract", Gagne said.

"We do ... have the right to decide who we do business with."

B'nai Brith lawyer David Matas said he is optimistic BC Tel will plug on Fairview. He also said he hopes the phone company will introduce a code of conduct for Internet service providers similar to that for telephone users and customers who get Internet service directly from BC Tel.

Alan Dutton, executive director of Vancouver's Anti-Racism Education and Research Society, argued telephone companies have cancelled service to stalkers who pester victims over the phone.

Dave Godfrey, of the B.C. Internet Association, said he believes the legal system is the appropriate way to get rid of hateful sites.

He said he does not think it's right for the rights groups to attack the phone company, which is not directly responsible for what is carried on the Net. Instead, he said, the groups should target the site publishers or Fairview.

Fairview owner Bernard Klatt refuses to restrict those using his business, saying every group has the right to free speech. "What's next? The Palestinian treatment - air-strikes or bulldozers - to take out a website?" he asked Monday.

Copyright © 1998 by The Vancouver Sun. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.