Yesterday, Canadian telecom consultant Mark Goldberg filed an application with the CRTC to have a specific American web site blocked for Canadian viewers.Â The reason for the application was that the site was promoting genocide against Canadian jews, and the murder of one specific human rights lawyer living here in Ottawa.Â The site has since been removed by Google (the hoster), however it raises some interesting questions.
These cases are often hard for folks to figure out.Â Censorship is distasteful, and may prematurely curtail important discussions that can occur in a public forum.Â For that reason, while not condoning their message,Â I’m generally in favour of allowing these groups to have their say.Â Â My hope isÂ that exposingÂ them to public scrutiny will show them for what they are.Â I’m reminded, in particular, of a Jerry Springer episode in the 1990’s where he interviewed members of the KKK, including their kids. It would be difficult for me to imagine anyone being influenced by that show in any fashion except to conclude that the KKK membership is mostly poor, white, uneducated bigots that any normal person wouldn’t want to associate with.Â I am sure that they viewed the opportunity to be on national TV as a platform for spreading their message.Â It didn’t work out well for them at all.
I’m also sympathetic, although usually not in agreement with, “slippery slope” arguments.Â Most of the time there isn’t any substance to these arguments.Â They are simply being set up as a straw man to curtail debate.Â
Having said all that, I support Mark’s effort.Â The spirit of our Charter of Rights is being violated.Â Moreover, our own laws against the promotion of hatred are also being violated.Â In Canada, it’s illegal to promote genocide, or violence against minorities, or to encourage others to hate minorities.Â The man being targeted is fearful that among the readers of this web site there may be Canadians with similar views living near by.Â Nobody should have to live with that fear.
One commenter on Mark’s blog asks whyÂ theÂ owner of the site is simply not beingÂ charged.Â Â The reason was that this site is hosted on Google’s Blogger, in the US, and written by anÂ American.Â There is no concept of a hate crime in US law, however, and courts have generally given strong support to free speech.Â That is why groups like the KKK can continue to exist south of the border.Â It’s clear that the only way for us toÂ uphold our own lawsÂ is to attempt to ensure that this content can’t be viewed here.Â
I disagree with my friend Jon Arnold’sÂ view that this might be a side effect of net neutrality.Â Net neutrality would not give anyone the right to engage in illegal acts using the internet.Â In a net neutral world, it would still be illegal, for instance, to produce and view child pornography.Â We should think about this case in the same way.