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

OSCE Media Representative holds seminar on freedom on the Internet

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)

OSCE/FOM seminar, June 30 2004

Karin Spaink

Technical and political considerations:
Is prohibiting hate-speech feasible - or desirable?

See presentation as pdf

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'.

The internet is:

  • a vast series of interconnected networks
  • that consist of various services (or 'protocols')
  • which run on computers in many countries
  • which are each governed by their own national law.

Accessto the internet is cheap and easy:

  • a computer and a modem
  • or a job
  • or an internet café

will allow you to publish your words world-wide.

Some of these internet services:

  • web sites
  • web fora
  • web cast (streaming audio / video)
  • e-mail
  • chat (MSN, ICQ, IRC)
  • usenet
  • peer to peer (KaZaa)
  • ftp (uploading and downloading)
  • et cetera

Regulating all these services is not an easy task:

  • each service has a different legal standing within the national law of the countries involved
  • each country has its own legal framework for hate speech
  • each law designed to regulate a specific service has proven fallible

(Morris Lipson of Article 19 will elaborate on the legal ramifications of applying national law to a global network).

By design, the internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it - by means fair or foul, but mostly: by technical innovations.

  • moving disputed content to the 'locus of least resistance'
  • copyright disputes: from (centralised) Napster to (peer to peer) KaZaa
  • spam has teamed up with virusses, is sent from hacked machines

Regulating web sites?

  • web sites are enduring (as compared to e-mail)
  • their content is on public display

So perhaps the ISP should be regarded as their 'publisher'. However, the analogy fails:

  • amount of web sites makes monitoring impossible
  • frequent changes to content of web sites
  • ISPs are not legally responsible (common carrier)
  • global nature of the net: disputed pages move elsewhere
  • filtering is problematic: blocks too much and too little

Regulating e-mail?

Draconian measure:

  • monitoring poses severe privacy objections


  • 'Spam' has shown that people will find means to distribute banned material. Anti-spam laws have not decreased the amount of spam pumped around; it has made it more difficult to trace those who are responsible.
  • (First global extreme-right spamrun began on June 10, 2004.)

Regulating chats?

  • whose responsibility?
  • - chat channels are often unmonitored / private
  • - people joining to disrupt
  • intrusion
  • - similar to eavesdropping into a café conversation

Regulating peer to peer?

  • RIAA (and related organisations) try, but not very successfully
  • yet: copyright violation is regarded as more serious (economic crime) and easier to prove


- by government:

  • negates choice
  • can usually be easily circumvented
  • overblocking and underblocking

- by consumers:

  • voluntarily approach
  • same problem of over-and underblocking

Legal obstacles to making ISPs responsible:

  • basically, ISPs are common carriers, not publishers

putting self-regulation at the hands of the ISP curtails basic rights of internet users:

  • ISP is no judge
  • no right to redress
  • no transparency (what is taken down why, on what grounds and how often)

Proportions of hate web sites:

  • In 2000, hatewatch.org identified 400-450 'hard core' hate sites and 1500-1750 sites that were deemed 'problematic'
  • While the number of web pages has more than doubled since, that amount has not changed. From a 2004 report by Media Awareness, Canada:
    The Southern Poverty Law Centre reports:
    - the number of hate sites on the web has levelled off at around 400
    - there is no evidence of an increase in the number of people who belong to hate groups.


Proportions, calculated:

Assume that each 'hard core' and 'problematic' site contains an average of 300 pages.

300 pages x 450 hard core sites 135.000 pages
300 pages x 1750 problematic sites 525.000 pages
  660.000 pages

Google currently has pages indexed.
That is: slightly over 0,015% of all web pages contain hate speech or something similar ('problematic').

Further reading:

  • From quill to cursor, OSCE/FOM 2003:
    - Felipe Rodriquez on filtering and blocking
    - Karin Spaink on censorship
  • Spreading the word on the internet, OSCE/FOM 2003

Karin Spaink karin@spaink.net
Chair of Bits of Freedom, Dutch civil rights organisation, external advisor Internet for OSCE/FOM

More arguments:
Why discriminatory speech on the internet cannot – and should not – be banned

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)

Public and Private Partnership:
The Fight Against Racism, Xenophobia and anti-Semitism on the Internet
An Introduction by Miklós Haraszti, OSCE-Representative on Freedom of the Media...

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...

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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