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OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Meeting on the Relationship between Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Propaganda on the Internet and Hate Crimes, Paris, 16 – 17 June 2004

Session 3:
Public and Private Partnership in the Fight Against Racism, Xenophobia and anti-Semitism on the Internet – Best Practices

Introduction by Miklós Haraszti
The Representative on Freedom of the Media

Miklos Haraszti (left), the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and his senior adviser Alexander Ivanko. (Photo OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiev)Miklos Haraszti (left), the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and his senior adviser Alexander Ivanko. (Photo OSCE/Mikhail Evstafiev)

While the Internet is rapidly getting more widespread and accepted, so are attempts to curtail this new form of freedom of expression. However, no matter what technical means are used to channel the work of journalists to the public – be it TV, radio, newspapers or the Internet – the constitutional value of freedom of the media must not be questioned, as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) expressed in the Amsterdam Recommendations.

An important challenge for the RFoM is to identify ways in which to prevent hate speech and crime without restricting freedom of expression on the Internet and without curtailing the civil rights of Internet users. A number of conferences and documents have shown that there is a need to counter hate speech on the Internet, but that there is a considerable degree of uncertainty about how to tackle this problem. A seminar on 30 June 2004 in Vienna organized by the Representative will begin to evaluate the reasons for this uncertainty, provide detailed information, initiate strategy proposals and highlight best practices to guarantee freedom of the media on the Internet in the future.

Public and Private Partnership in Regulation Issues

We find it inevitable that groups victimized by hate speech come forward with complaints, and we welcome all forms of societal action to counter hate speech that are constructive and educational and make use of the means the Internet offers without censoring or restricting speech. Here a public-private partnership is possible, provided transparency, accountability and the right to appeal are observed to at least the same degree as in the classic media (print and/or broadcast) and the decision on what constitutes illegal content remains with judicial courts. Pure self-regulation, however, is endangering freedom of expression as it is often transferring court decisions to private companies, and does so arbitrarily and without any notice to the public.

The report How Liberty Disappeared from Cyberspace by the Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy at Oxford University (PCMLP) shows how ISP simply remove what is referred to as illegal content when they are notified, without giving serious consideration to whether it is in fact illegal, or offering content providers with adequate rights of appeal.1*)


With regard to co-regulation a number of points must be ensured to further guarantee media freedom on the Internet. Some of them have been raised during a presentation at the Paris Conference (Session 3):

The Internet can be used to counter hate speech and to promote tolerance:

  • Civil society has a number of means to counter hate speech without censoring.

  • Grass root action like ‘Wikipedia’ or ‘Sponsored Links’ is ‘used freedom’ without limiting freedom of expression.

Petitioning industry to block or filter sites is highly problematic:

  • It is not countering hate speech in an educative way, but forces the industry to censor. However not everything that is ‘unwanted’ for commercial reasons is indeed illegal.

  • Filtering can be easily circumvented and the blocking of arbitrarily chosen singular sites does not solve the problem as such.

Decisions on whether content is illegal or not must be made by the judiciary and not by industry and companies:

  • Authors of disputed content must have the right of appeal.

The biggest unused potential for countering hate speech lies in explaining, awareness raising and education.

1) In order to test these concerns, researchers (Christian Ahlert/Chris Marsden) set up a website, and enlisted J.S. Mill's help. After posting sections of his classic On Liberty on a fan site, a complaint was made which claimed that the site infringed copyright. To everyone's surprise, only the second ISP contacted removed the site immediately.
They had taken no time to examine whether the complaint was justified. Had they chosen to do so, they would have realised that it was ridiculous, as the text is too old to be protected by copyright (Damian Tambini).

OSCE Meeting on Racist, Xenophobic and Anti-Semitic Propaganda on the Internet

haGalil onLine:
Tension between freedom of speech and control of incitement
I think it became clear, that we cannot perceive the internet primarily as a threat, but much more should use the chance it offers to promote understanding and dialogue in a pluralistic and global society...
(Soundfile from Paris RA)

Some arguments by Ms. Karin Spaink:
Why discriminatory speech on the internet cannot – and should not – be banned
OSCE / FOM Objections pertaining to constitutional rights and the law...

Technical and political considerations:
Is prohibiting hate-speech feasible - or desirable?
At the OSCE Paris conference a number of countries / NGOs appealed to regulate the internet in order to stop hate speech. However, and contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as 'the internet'...

Security and Transparency:
Online Propaganda and the Commission of Hate Crimes
by Michael Whine, Chairman of the Community Security Trust, which provides defence and security services for the Jewish community in the UK...

Free Speech:
..."Let the bright light of truth expose their bigotry, so their lies can be unmasked"...
by Stephan M. Minikes, Ambassador, U.S. Mission...

Christian Antijudaism:
Cyberspace is a reflection of the world-at-large
If we put enough effort in education that promotes respect for differences, peaceful co-existence and tolerance, the Internet will also become hate-free...

One of the most acute dilemmas facing us at the outset of the Twenty-First Century:
The proliferation of hate material on the internet

Mass communication is not anymore on its infancy. With the Internet, we are dealing with a phenomenon unparalleled in all of History. Instant communication is possible, to all points on the globe, at minimum cost...


16./17. Juni - OSZE-Konferenz in Paris:
Fremdenhass und Antisemitismus im Internet

Am kommenden Mittwoch und Donnerstag findet in Paris eine OSZE-Konferenz statt, die die Zusammenhänge zwischen rassistischer, fremdenfeindlicher und antisemitischer Propaganda im Internet und Hassdelikten zum Thema hat...

Antisemitische Propaganda im Internet:
Hass ist das Ende der Welt

Methoden zur Rechtsdurchsetzung und Erfahrungen mit der strafrechtlichen Verfolgung antisemitischer u./o. rechtsextremistischer Hetze...

Ein Motivvorrat, der in jeder Epoche wieder aktualisiert werden kann:
Zum Begriff des Antisemitismus

Die Wortbildung basiert auf sprachwissenschaftlichen und völkerkundlichen Unterscheidungen des ausgehenden 18. Jahrhunderts, in denen mit dem Begriff des Semitismus der "Geist" der semitischen Völker im Unterschied zu dem der Indogermanen erfasst und abgewertet werden sollte...

[ENGLISH] [FRENCH]   [SoundFile (English) OSCE Conference Berlin- Session 4 / David Gall]

hagalil.com 20-06-2004


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