The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Censoring InterNet Can't Stop Zündel

[Typos ours. knm]

Title: Censoring Internet can't stop Zundel
BY: Chris Cobb [Southam Newspapers, Ottawa]
In: The Calgary Herald [Op-ed Page], Tuesday, Feb. 6, 1996
The Calgary Herald e-mail address:

Anti-censorship activists are rebelling against a German government decision to block Internet access to the writings of Toronto-based neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel. And Zundel, a bystander in the dispute, is emerging the winner.

At least 10 activists at prestigious U.S. universities have created so-called mirror sites, which means that Zundel's own website has multiplied and the German ban on his Holocaust denial diatribes severely weakened, if not rendered ineffective.

The German government launched its offensive against German Internet providers last week in the hope of stopping neo-Nazi propaganda reaching the country's Internet users. German authorities have threatened to prosecute two American companies--Compuserve and America Online--and a German company called T-Online which has one million users. Compuserve has 220,000 users in Germany and America Online 40,000.

T-Online has blocked Zundel's material, which he sends from a web site in Santa Cruz, Calif. The two American companies say they will co-operate but haven't yet cut Zundel off. Under German law, Holocaust denial and distribution of Nazi material is a crime.

This is the second major attempt by German authorities to block material on the Internet. Around Christmas, Compuserve was ordered to block dozens of pornographic sites from entering the country. The company complied.

The Zundel mirror sites have been created mainly through computer systems at prominent American universities, including Stanford in California, Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh and the University of Texas.

David Jones, president of the free speech advocacy group Electronic Frontier Canada (EFC), says anti-censorship activists copying the Zundelsite don't support Zundel's views:

"They are opposed to the German government imposing its will on the rest of the world. What's ironic is that this latest attempt at censorship has resulted in the information being copied to new locations in cyberspace and becoming more accessible. It's transforming Zundel from a nobody to a somebody. The net effect of this is the opposite of what the Germans wanted."

An Internet site originally developed as a joke by two Toronto men is also proving to be a way around censorship. The "Canadianizer" site has the capacity to fetch copies of other web sites from anywhere in the world. It then automatically inserts Canadianisms such as "eh" at the end of sentences and displays the site as if it orginated in Canada.

In the current German case, it means that an Internet user anywhere in Germany could contact the Toronto site and instruct it to fetch Zundel's material. It would then be displayed to the German user with the minor inconvenience of some "hoserisms."

People who receive their Internet service from a commercial provider can be blocked from seeing whatever the provider chooses to ban, but experts say total censorship of the Internet is impossible. The latest act of defiance by free speech activists seems to prove the point.

Zundel is watching the situation carefully and basking in the glare of international publicity. His profile in Germany, lower than in Canada, is on the rise.

"Notoriety does have its advantages," he said Friday. "But I realize that these people, like me, are fighting for a principle. Many of them, I know, wouldn't touch me with a 10-foot pole."

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