OTTAWA — Canada has joined an international crackdown on Internet racism and its links to terrorism, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says.
He was in Strasbourg, France, yesterday as Canada became the first non-European country to sign a protocol to fight hatred on the Web.
“We’re talking about a faceless, anonymous, borderless, predatory racism,” he said in a telephone interview. “And we’ve got to find the ways and means to combat it.
“No country standing alone can do that. It can only be done through international co-operation.”
Mr. Cotler was in England a day earlier at Cambridge University when four bombs ripped through London, killing at least 50 people and injuring 700 others.
Officials are investigating an Internet claim by a little-known group calling itself The Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe that it staged the attacks.
Mr. Cotler says the new protocol means law enforcers can pool efforts internationally to prosecute Internet racists and shut down their sites.
He cites a connection between terrorist attacks and an increase in the past decade of sites used to swap tips on everything from exterminating whole ethnic groups to building bombs.
“Incitement to hatred can itself be a connecting link to terrorism,” he said. “And in some instances, it’s the most proximate cause of terrorism itself.”
Canada, which signed the Convention on Cybercrime in November of 2001, joins 28 other countries in supporting its first additional protocol to fight Internet racism.
The number of websites promoting violence against specific groups has rocketed in the past decade to 5,000 from a single neo-Nazi site in 1995, says Leo Adler, a spokesman for the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel is the best example of why international action is needed, he said.
Mr. Zundel, prohibited from spreading his Internet message from Canadian-based sites, simply switched to a server in Tennessee, Mr. Adler said. Mr. Zundel was deported to Germany in March.
Anyone convicted under the Criminal Code of promoting hatred against a specific group faces up to two years in jail.