The Associated Press, June 3, 2009 Wednesday
Asylum-seeking Brits wait deportation in US jail
Two Britons seeking asylum in the United States after being convicted of hate speech crimes in their homeland will be deported after nearly a year in U.S. custody.
Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle fled in July 2008 after being convicted of publishing hate speech against Jews and other groups on their Web site. The men sought asylum under America’s free speech protections.
The men believed they were being persecuted for their right-wing views by Britain’s Labor government.
They were taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport when they asked a uniformed U.S. official for help.
An immigration judge ordered that the men be deported to England, where they likely will be sentenced to jail time.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com
June 3, 2009 Wednesday 11:21 PM GMT
Asylum-seeking Brits find reality in US jail
Two British citizens seeking asylum in the United States after being convicted of hate speech crimes in their homeland will be deported after languishing in U.S. custody for nearly a year.
Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle fled to the U.S. in July 2008 after being convicted of publishing hate speech against Jews and other groups on their Web site. The men believed that they would be granted asylum under American laws that protect freedom of speech.
But Sheppard, 52, and Whittle, 42, were taken into custody immediately after their arrival at Los Angeles International Airport when they asked a uniformed U.S. official for asylum. The two have been held at the Santa Ana City Jail in Orange County since then.
“We came to the beacon of free speech in the Western world which turned out to be a complete fantasy,” Sheppard told the Los Angeles Times, which interviewed them in jail.
Whittle added, “We’ve never seen California but through bars.”
An immigration judge issued a written order on March 1 saying that the men did not qualify for asylum and were to be deported to England, where they likely will be sentenced to jail time.
Sheppard and Whittle did not appeal the ruling within the 30-day window and the order became final on May 1, immigration officials said.
“They remain in our custody awaiting deportation to England. We don’t talk about timing (of deportation) for security reasons,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Orange County.
Kice said authorities learned early on about the men’s hate crime convictions in Britain and that it was a factor in their lengthy detention.
Sheppard and Whittle, who have garnered the nickname the “heretical two,” were convicted in England for a string of essays and other published material on Sheppard’s Web site, which uses a server based in Torrance, Calif.
Sheppard was convicted on 11 counts, Whittle on five. In January, Sheppard was retried in absentia and convicted on five more charges.
The men fled to the U.S. because they believed they were being persecuted for their right-wing views by Britain’s Labor government. That argument was part of the basis of their application for political asylum.
Attorney Bruce Leichty, who no longer represents the men, said he doesn’t agree with the two, but said it’s wrong to jail people for expressing political views.
“I think it has very wide ramifications,” Leichty said. “I don’t share their views or the way they communicate their views, but I certainly don’t think we should be incarcerating people for what they did.”
Rights commission wants say on online hate; Report rejects bid to only have Criminal Code deal with Internet hatemongers
Don Butler, The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Citizen, June 12, 2009 Friday
The Canadian Human Rights Commission wants to stay in the business of policing online hate speech.
In a report tabled in Parliament Thursday, the commission rejected a proposal to leave the task of reining in Internet hatemongers to the Criminal Code.
However, the report suggests several changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act to address shortcomings identified during public consultations.
They include adding a statutory definition of hatred and contempt, repealing penalty provisions, allowing for an award of legal costs in exceptional circumstances and the early dismissal of complaints that don’t meet the definition of hate speech.
Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch said the “dual approach” to hate speech the report advocates “provides flexibility that wouldn’t be available if only the Criminal Code is used.”
Without the human rights act as an alternative, she said, few Internet hate complaints would be resolved. Criminal charges are rare, in part because just 12 of 58 Ontario police services have hate specialists, Lynch said.
“If we pulled out of our jurisdiction in this area, there would be a gap that could remain for decades or forever.”
In a report last year, Richard Moon, a University of Windsor law professor, recommended repeal of section 13 of the human rights act, which obliges the commission to screen complaints about online hate.
Moon stood by that recommendation Thursday, saying that even with the proposed changes, section 13 still would be “potentially too broad.”
To justify a dual approach to hate speech, the commission needs to carve out “something that’s distinctive” for section 13, Moon said, so it doesn’t just replicate the Criminal Code provisions.
In order to do that, it probably has to be “a little bit looser” than the criminal law, he said. But “that begins to raise all the concerns about free speech.”
The report divided Jewish groups.
“What the commission is recommending is, in essence, cosmetic tinkering to deal with a human rights system that is in need of a major overhaul,” said Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s executive vice president.
But Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, welcomed the report, saying its recommendations would make human rights commission involvement “more palatable” to the political mainstream.
The key, he said, is its proposal to fast-track the dismissal of complaints that don’t meet the law’s definition of hate speech. “If a case is frivolous, there has to be a provision to get rid of it very quickly.”
Controversy erupted over the impact of section 13 on freedom of speech after a Muslim group filed a complaint against Macleans magazine in 2007. After investigating, the commission dismissed the complaint last year. While the furore over Macleans generated fierce debate, Lynch said the debate “has not yet been balanced.”
Moon agreed, saying the commission’s report was partly an attempt to respond to a “disinformation campaign” mounted by the commission’s critics.
Under the human rights act, the commission can dismiss section 13 complaints, send them for conciliation or refer them to a quasi-judicial body, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, for a hearing.
Since passage of the human rights act in 1977, 72 complaints have been filed and accepted under section 13, of which six are still pending.
Forty-nine were resolved without a hearing, and 17 went to the tribunal. Of those, the tribunal has upheld 16, most of which were filed by Ottawa lawyer and anti-hate activist Richard Warman.
Moon picked up on those facts in response to Lynch’s argument that prosecutions would dry up if Internet hatred was left to the police.
The human rights tribunal also hears very few section 13 cases, Moon pointed out. “In the absence of Richard Warman, there really is very little happening under section 13. You take him away, you’ve got nothing.”
The commission’s report says the act should be amended to make it clear section 13 only applies to “ardent and extreme” hate messages.
The Commons committee on justice and human rights will consider the commission’s report as part of its review of section 13 this fall.
(Ottawa, June 11, 2009) – Today, the Canadian Human Rights Commission recommended to Parliament that the Canadian Human Rights Act continue to be used to protect Canadians from the harm caused by extreme hate messages on the Internet, and proposed changes to make the system more effective.
‘The Canadian Human Rights Act is remedial in nature and focuses on the removal of extreme hate messages. On the other hand, the Criminal Code is the most severe mechanism and aims at punishing criminal intent,’ CHRC Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch, Q.C. said upon releasing the Report. ‘Both serve useful purposes in protecting Canadians from discrimination in today’s society.’
The Commission’s Report also proposes improvements to the Canadian Human Rights Act to address shortcomings that were identified through its consultations. These include providing a statutory definition of hatred and contempt, repealing the penalty provision, and including a provision to allow the Commission to summarily dismiss complaints where the messages do not constitute hatred.
As the Report points out, discrimination still exists in Canada despite the important progress made. Human rights commissions and tribunals have a key role to play in safeguarding equality and in protecting and promoting the human rights that are fundamental to Canadian society.
‘The dissemination of hate messages undermines equality and the right of individuals to be free from discrimination,’ said Ms. Lynch. ‘Canada does not recognize a hierarchy of rights; no single right is more important than any other. As a progressive, modern nation, Canada must navigate the conflict and find an appropriate balance between the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom from hate.’
The Commission’s Special Report, which is based on consultation and expert opinion, is intended to inform the public and Parliamentary debate on this important issue. The Report is now available on the Commission’s website.
UN urges fight against hate speech in cyberspace, June 16 2009
The United Nations on Tuesday appealed to parents, the Internet industry and policy-makers to join hands to eradicate hate speech from cyberspace.
Addressing a day-long seminar titled “Unlearning Intolerance” on the danger of “cyberhate,” UN chief Ban Ki-moon lauded the benefits of the Internet but regretted that “there are those who use information technology to reinforce stereotypes, to spread misinformation and propagate hate.”
“Some of the newest technologies are being used to peddle some of the oldest fears,” he warned, decrying what he called “digital demonization… targeting innocents because of their faith, their raace, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation.”
The secretary general said the Internet industry “can help ensure that hate speech does not proliferate online” and urged policy-makers to “take a hard look at this problem and work to safeguard people while balancing basic freedoms and human rights.”
He also stressed that parents have a responsibility to teach their children to safely surf the Internet.
The world body began its “Unlearning Intolerance” series in 2004 with a forum on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and has continued the program with lectures and seminars since then.
Speakers at Tuesday’s seminar included UN Under Secretary-General for Public Information Kiyo Akasaka, chief security officer at News Corporation and MySpace Hemanshu Nigam, and Ban’s special representative on violence against children Marta Santos Pais.
Digital Britain: Government vows to cut illegal file-sharing by 70%: “The Government believes it can reduce unlawful file-sharing by 70% to 80% by forcing internet service providers (ISPs) to tell users that their copyright infringement has been noted and making evidence of infringement available to the courts.”
(Via OUT-LAW News.)
A new generation of Iranians has found ways to bypass the country’s notoriously censorial Internet restrictions and disseminate details about Iran’s internal turmoil in the wake of the recent election.
In technical circles, at least, Iran is well-known for erecting one of the world’s most restrictive Internet …
(Via The Iconoclast.)
Iranian dissidents go online to defy the government censors – Times Online: From The Times
June 16, 2009: Iranian dissidents go online to defy the government censors
Dissidents are defying Iranian government attempts to silence them by distributing photos, videos and amateur reports of protests online.
In a rude awakening for the censors, young computer-literate opponents of the regime have taken to social networking websites to co-ordinate their protests and spread news.
One Facebook group called I Love Iran already has 65,000 members. On Monday one said: “The march in Tehran is still on. Any rumours that you hear are all propaganda from the government to make you stay away from the rally. Come to the rally at 4 and march for your freedom!”
In an attempt to curb such statements, access to Facebook was blocked last week, followed by bars on YouTube, anti-government websites and the micro-blogging site Twitter. As President Ahmadinejad proclaimed his “great victory” on Saturday, the mobile phone network stopped working and text messaging remains blocked.
However, the opposition were undeterred. Since Saturday an ad hoc network of volunteer internet users outside Iran has been creating proxy servers, or false IP (internet protocol) addresses to reroute online traffic and fox censorship software.
In an electronic game of cat and mouse, the creators of the proxy addresses post them online to alert Iranian dissidents. Censors leap to block each one as it appears, only to find that more have sprung up.
A group of overseas hackers is using a tactic traditionally employed by repressive regimes — a denial of service (DoS) attack — to block Iranian government sites. Using a free web application to create a deluge of clicks, by late Monday they had brought down the President’s personal website and that of a state broadcaster.
On Twitter, hundreds of updates tagged “iranelection” appeared each hour. A steady stream of photos and witness reports came from one Twitter user, persiankiwi. He sat at his computer in Tehran, as friends fed him information on the protests. “We honour and thank the people of Iran and especially the hackers,” he tweeted late on Monday. “Basij [the militia] have guns — we have brains.”
IR – The Twitter crisis: how site became voice of resistance in Iran: “(Guardian)
As foreign journalists were expelled from Iran or confined to their hotel rooms, and as events moved at speed through the day, web users across the world turned in enormous numbers to their counterparts in Iran, who were using blogs, YouTube and social networking sites to spread information that would otherwise not have reached a wide audience. As one Twitter user with apparent links to the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi put it: ‘Everybody try to film as much as poss today on mobiles ? these are eyes of world.’ Mobile phone footage and grainy pictures were copied on to blogs and news sites, while mainstream broadcasters, their correspondents constrained, relied on user-generated footage in an attempt to circumvent the censored state broadcasts.
(Via QuickLinks Update.)
Five months on from the passage of new laws on extreme porn, police forces up and down the UK appear to be using them sparingly – and not quite in the way that parliament intended.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)