The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/m/mcvay.ken/press/ottawa.960501

                       Copyright 1996 Southam Inc.
                            The Ottawa Citizen

                   May 1, 1996, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION


LENGTH: 520 words

HEADLINE: Activist urges caution in online war on hate: Censoring Internet
risky, MPs warned



Attempts to legislate hate propaganda off the Internet will not work and
should not even be attempted, one of the cyberworld's leading anti-racism
activists warned a parliamentary committee Tuesday.

Anti-censorship activists will use technology to get around any attempt to
curb freedom of expression on the Internet, Ken McVay warned MPs embarking
upon a study of new technologies and human rights.

Although McVay works full-time rebutting online hate material, he also
insisted that its presence on the Net is not a major problem.

Only about 100 English-speaking Internet users worldwide -- including
perhaps 10 in Canada -- use the new technology to promote racial hatred, he
said, noting that this group represents only a "minuscule amount of the
traffic " on a system now used by as many as 75 million people.

Sheila Finestone, chair of the human rights committee, said members will
hear more about the Internet and censorship in the coming months before
making any recommendations for new laws. In a separate initiative, justice
department officials are considering options to curb imports and exports of
hate material that could eventually apply to the Internet as well.

McVay, who lives and works in a small town on Vancouver Island, said a
recent attempt to block Internet access to the writings of Toronto-based
neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel "was an unmitigated disaster for Germany and an
unmitigated success for Ernst Zundel. "

Anti-censorship activists, many of them at prestigious American
universities, rushed to set up so-called mirror sites to make Zundel's
Holocaust-denial diatribes available after the German government moved to
shut down Internet providers carrying the material. Zundel benefited from
all the free publicity and his writings became even more accessible to
Internet users.

McVay told committee members that instead of trying to censor the Internet,
the government should ensure that information required to counter racist
rhetoric is available electronically. Examples might include archival
documents that show up racists' lies.

The former computer consultant began his campaign against cyber-racism
about four years ago. He is now director of the Nizkor Project, a major
data base that includes historical documents on the Holocaust, human rights
reports and information related to skinhead and racist activities. In March
alone, Internet users accessed 150,000 documents in the data base, which is
funded by private donors.

For his efforts, McVay has received the Order of British Columbia and so
many on-line death threats that he refuses to give out his address.

Rubin Friedman, director of government relations with B'nai Brith Canada,
said the existing law making it a crime to promote hatred against
identifiable groups is difficult to enforce on the Internet because it is
tough to prove who posted the message or determine whether it originated
within Canada. He said B'nai Brith supports the Nizkor Project because
government policing of the Internet clearly is almost impossible.

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