Australian government to U.S.-based website: remove that hate speech or face prosecution

by Walter Olson on March 27, 2010

Not just anti-free-speech, but extraterritorial as well [Popehat]:

…Joseph Evers, one of the “owners” of Encyclopedia Dramatica, reveals that he got a threatening letter from the Australian Human Rights Commission, which based upon its logo may or may not be controlled by AT&T. The Human Rights Commission announces that it has gotten multiple complaints about Encyclopedia Dramatica’s Aborigine page, and that the page “constitutes racial hatred” and appears to Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 in that it constitutes an act “likely to offend, insult, intimidate or humiliate” another person based on their race. The Human Rights Commission also announces — rather triumphantly, I think — that it does not matter that Encyclopedia Dramatica is hosted and written in the United States, because Australian law, as reflected in Dow Jones v. Gutnik, treats web pages written and hosted elsewhere as if they were published in Australia, subjecting their authors and/or hosts to jurisdiction there.

Australian authorities have compiled a blacklist of sites that internet providers must filter from Australian users’ access, and many sites apparently make the list on the grounds of forbidden opinion content. More on “hate speech” here; also note our recent post on Canada and Ann Coulter, where an anonymous visitor is defending Canada’s speech-penalizing laws.

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1 matt 03.27.10 at 9:52 am

for those that don’t know ,Encyclopedia Dramatica is basically wikipedia as done by 4chan! trying to take them seriously is just horrible stupidity

2 Doug 03.27.10 at 10:15 am

Its just stupid and silly to think a government agency can exercise jurisdictional control over someone who is not present in your jurisdiction.

3 Dennis N 03.27.10 at 12:17 pm

I hereby offend, insult, intimidate and humiliate every person in Australia based on their race. I especially offend, insult, intimidate and humiliate all the Australian Human Rights Commission based on their race which is also non-human. You are all despicable sub humans.

Now you bastards can come and get me.

4 Melvin H. 03.27.10 at 1:01 pm

This sounds suspiciously like a takedown order.
So . . . . . .
…to the Australian “Human Rights” Commission (an oxymoron if I ever heard one!): Read the U.S. DMCA, section 230.

5 My2cents 03.27.10 at 6:48 pm

Seeing as there is probably something offensive to someone on every web site, if they actually go to court coould the web service providers act as a group to block all access to foreign sites from within Australia?

That would certainly solve Australia’s legal problem in the short term. I suspect that the Australian public would resolve the long term issues very quickly.

6 ras 03.27.10 at 7:51 pm

I am offended by the Australian government’s action, and under Canadian law that is a violation of my human rights and requires reparations. You can run, Australia, but you can’t hide; cash or certified check, please.

7 Robert J 03.28.10 at 7:25 pm

Imagine what will happen if the current Australian government brings in their draconian censorship laws proposed in the near future. The Australian newspaper has a lot on this subject today (Monday 29th March 2010 )
Fortunatulately we have federal elections this year , hopefully this censorship/state control of the Internet and the global warming hoax/tax will be sorted out then.

8 Malcolm Smith 03.29.10 at 7:05 am

Well, I live in Australia, and when I read that article, I googled the site, and got it. Believe me, neither Google nor the Australian Government has done nothing to restrict access to the Encyclopedia Dramatica – which, in any case, to too idiotic to be offensive.

9 Anonymous Attorney 03.29.10 at 1:32 pm

Someone must be jealous of the Canadian Human Rights Commission hogging the spotlight.

10 Kim Scarborough 03.30.10 at 9:54 am

Okay, so something I’ve always kinda wondered about. Say he’s charged and convicted or whatever in absentia in Australia. If he’s in the United States, does it even matter? If he ignored it, would anything happen to him (assuming he stayed out of Australia)?

11 whiner 03.30.10 at 12:34 pm

Of course criticising things that are outside of your jurisdiction is just fine for some.

12 Bob Lipton 03.30.10 at 1:43 pm

Of course, ignoring the house that’s burning down next door is fine for others.

Bob

13 A.W. 03.30.10 at 3:42 pm

i am just wondering, if we can ban so-called hate speech, can we ban freedom-hating-speech?

so next time someone says something in support of hate speech laws, we arrest them for bringing freedom of speech into contempt or hate?

(And no, i am not serious, just tryign to mock the whole stupid thing.)

14 whiner 03.30.10 at 4:32 pm

Australia’s next door?

15 gumby 03.30.10 at 6:52 pm

“Speech penalizing”?!?

Plays to the chorus, I suppose.

16 A.W. 03.31.10 at 8:31 am

Gumby, you petty fascist.

> Plays to the chorus, I suppose.

No, its a fact. Canuckistan penalizes speech. As in if you speak and they don’t approve of the content of your words, you are penalized.

Simply put, we don’t allow for viewpoint related restrictions on speech. But Canuckistan does. Worse yet, it doesn’t even do it even-handedly. When an imam known to engage in vicious anti-semitism can complain against mark steyn, and never fear persecution himself, you can’t pretend this is all viewpoint neutral. The canadian human rights commission is functionally anti-semitic, if not intentionally so.

I don’t like hate speech any more than you do, but i hate government censorship more.

17 gumby 03.31.10 at 2:49 pm

“we don’t allow for viewpoint related restrictions on speech.”

Well, that’s fine. You don’t see me arguing that the US should have hate speech laws do you? I kinda think you would blow an artery and tell me to mind my own f-ing business.

I don’t know why Americans expect the legal and cultural landscape in other countries to be the same as theirs, and why folks like you, AW, get so angry when some other country approaches the regulation of their society in a different way. The epithet “Canuckistan”, for example, is absurd on its face; we are the country most like you in the entire world.

The response is so irrational and hyperbolic that it appears you are offended at a moral level, rather than at a pragmatic or intellectual level. And this is maybe why the dialogue goes off the rails. Americans seem to approach their politics with quasi-religious fervour — constitutional rights are more of a moral code for americans than they are for Canadians. When we talk about free speech, Canadians are talking about peace order and good government and reasonable limits that can be justified in a free and democratic society, while americans are talking about inalienble rights. While we are thinking about legislative policy goals, balancing of interests and reasonable limits, you are talking about the political equivalent of sins against God. But shrieking at people that they are sinners (fascists!) is a terrible way to convert them.

The fact is that it is the US that is the exception among western democracies in declining to provide legal tools to address hate speech and discrimination. These laws are not that unusual. Values differ. Goals differ. You don’t see me shrieking about the right to bear arms and the appalling levels of gun deaths you have, do you?

18 A.W. 03.31.10 at 3:58 pm

Gumby

> I kinda think you would blow an artery and tell me to mind my own f-ing business.

Actually what I would say is that it is wrong to do so, not mind your own business. The concept of right and wrong does not respect borders.

> I don’t know why Americans expect the legal and cultural landscape in other countries to be the same as theirs

I don’t know why you think that the crossing of an imaginary border makes it suddenly not fascistic to limit speech based on viewpoint.

Seriously, should we have let Germany exterminate the jews because after all that was what their legal and cultural landscape demands?

> The response is so irrational and hyperbolic that it appears you are offended at a moral level

Um, yes, exactly. Fascism is immoral.

> Americans seem to approach their politics with quasi-religious fervour — constitutional rights are more of a moral code for americans than they are for Canadians.

Well, let’s see here. We believe that our rights are “God-given”—you know, endowed by our creator, etc.—so yeah, it is kind of religious for us. And you pragmatically and intellectually think its negotiable. And believing it is negotiable, you are therefore willing to fritter it away. If that is the rational point of view, I am happily irrational.

> Canadians are talking about peace order and good government

Yeah, so did Hitler.

> and reasonable limits that can be justified in a free and democratic society

Sorry, but if you can’t freely discuss the issues, you do not have democracy. Seriously, did you think it was democracy in the soviet union when opposition parties were banned? How is this different except in degree?

How can you possibly say, for instance, that laws on homosexuality are democratic in your country? If you denounce homosexuality, you are tried for hate speech. There is a minister forbidden from reading specific passage of the bible for this reason. How can you say you guys are democratically voting on the issue when only one side can speak freely? Gay people are free to hate so-called Christian fascists, but Christians are not free to “hate” gay people. Although apparently muslims are free to hate gay people, too, so there is that. Apparently there is a muslim exception to your hate laws, amounting to religious as well as viewpoint discrimination.

> The fact is that it is the US that is the exception among western democracies in declining to provide legal tools to address hate speech and discrimination.

Yes, a fact which I am proud of. But maybe it has to do with the fact that when Americans rose up against tyranny Canaduh said, “you know, we are just find with tyranny, thank you.” America was the home of the free and the brave, and Canaduh became the home of the people who just don’t value freedom so much.

> These laws are not that unusual.

Yeah, and in 1776, monarchy wasn’t unusual either.

> You don’t see me shrieking about the right to bear arms and the appalling levels of gun deaths you have, do you?

Yeah, in Chicago, where handguns are banned, out of 412 murders last year, 406 of them were by handguns. Respecting the right to bear arms doesn’t cause crime; it prevents it. If you have a law against the ownership of guns, then all you do is ensure that only those who break the law will be armed.

And seriously what happened to the british empire. Long ago, you guys had values. Maybe not Canaduh, but Britain believed in democracy, and didn’t succumb to this kind of idiot thinking. The british sent out ships to disrupt the slave trade. They stopped the Indians from burning widows alive. I remember Mark Steyn quoting a letter from a british officer. He said (paraphrase), “You say that burning a widow alive is a matter of your culture. Well, in our culture, when a man kills an innocent woman we hang him. So you can build your fire and we will build gallows right next to it, and after you carry out your traditions, we will carry out ours.” There is a lot to criticize in british history, especially as it relates to colonialism, but there was nothing at all wrong with stopping that practice.

But as I end, let me reiterate this point. Are you really such a relativist? Would you have said in 1939, that the holocaust was just a matter of Germany’s legal culture and we should mind our own business? If you are walking through India circa 1850 or so, and they are dragging a woman kicking and screaming toward a bonfire, and an American intervenes and stops it, do you call that person a jerk? Or a hero?

19 A.W. 03.31.10 at 4:07 pm

dang it, struck by the typo fairy. this paragraph was supposed to say this (correction highlighted):

> But maybe it has to do with the fact that when Americans rose up against tyranny Canaduh said, “you know, we are just fine with tyranny, thank you.” America was the home of the free and the brave, and Canaduh became the home of the people who just don’t value freedom so much.

20 A.W. 03.31.10 at 4:21 pm

Btw, notice you can’t even deny the facts.

Mark Steyn was prosecuted for anti-muslim “hate speech.”

His accuser was guilty of anti-jewish hate speech. But he was never prosecuted.

Isn’t that pretty, you know, damning?

21 gumby 03.31.10 at 6:08 pm

‘Btw, notice you can’t even deny the facts.

Mark Steyn was prosecuted for anti-muslim “hate speech.”’

Note that you misrepresent the nature of the process, and its disposition, which is pretty, you know, damning.

First, it’s a complaints based tribunal, not a prosecution. I’m sure that its a relief to you that the state does not pick and choose incidents to investigate.

Second, niether the Canada Human Rights Commission nor the BC Human Rights Tribunal did not rule in favour of the complainant.

Do you know if Steyn filed a complaint against the accuser?

And I’m calling Godwin’s on the Hitler reference, by the way.

22 A.W. 04.01.10 at 7:41 am

Gumby

> First, it’s a complaints based tribunal, not a prosecution.

Nah, it is only the state going up against a person to determine if they ought to be fined, not to compensate the so-called victims, but to punish. The fact that it isn’t technically a criminal prosecution, with the rights that this would grant a defendant, makes it worse, not better.

> I’m sure that its a relief to you that the state does not pick and choose incidents to investigate.

Well, given that rabidly anti-semitic imams are allowed to act with impunity in Canaduh, but Mark Steyn gets in trouble for accurately quoting an imam, nope, not very relieved at all.

> Second, niether the Canada Human Rights Commission nor the BC Human Rights Tribunal did not rule in favour of the complainant.

Yeah, up until then they had a perfect batting record. But Mr. Steyn and Levant exposed the whole ugly business and they ran with their tails between their legs.

The problem is that this won’t necessarily work for the little guy who doesn’t have the resources to fight.

> And I’m calling Godwin’s on the Hitler reference, by the way.

Well, it’s a bogus rule. You have stated that you think what goes on in another country is none of our business. So I am allowed to ask if you really believe that under all circumstances.

You’re just ducking the fact that either 1) you don’t really believe that, or 2) your relativism is so appalling you would have us not even intervene in the face of holocaust. Its called the horns of a dilemma, and you don’t get off it that easily, you petty fascist.

23 Melvin H. 04.01.10 at 1:19 pm

Okay, A.W., Gumby: Back to your corners…… (bell rings in background :-) )

Seriously, and back on the subject: This seems like the Australian commission has not read or just is ignoring the part of the U.S. law that is Section 230 of the DMCA; were they a person or a company, their action would likely be smacked-down under that section (as I understand it). Besides, how does a law in one country ever get enforced in another which seems to have the opposite law? (I know, I know–I am not referencing criminal law like murder, kidnapping, etc. here or the various extradition treaties……although it does get interesting with death penalties and such treaties, but that is for another time.)

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