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British Men Jailed For Online Hate Crimes 778

chrb writes "Two British men have become the first to be jailed for inciting racial hatred online. The men believed that material they published on web servers based in the United States did not fall under the jurisdiction of UK law and was protected under the First Amendment. This argument was rejected by the British trial judge. After being found guilty, the men fled to Los Angeles, where they attempted to claim political asylum, again arguing that they were being persecuted by the British government for speech that was protected under the First Amendment. The asylum bid was rejected and the two were deported back to the UK after spending over a year in a US jail."
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British Men Jailed For Online Hate Crimes

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  • Thought crime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Werrismys ( 764601 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @02:46PM (#28662027)
    This is old news in Finland. We have had at least 4 convictions on dubious basis within one year. "Insulting" muslims and negroes seems to be verboten while insulting christians and white males is ok. 1984.
  • !thoughtcrime (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @02:55PM (#28662105) Homepage Journal

    Publishing words that incite hatred is not "thoughtcrime". Words are not thoughts. You can think whatever hatred or whatever else you want. But speech is an action, a real act in the world that affects other people. Not all acts, not all speech or expressions, particularly in public, are protected. You do not have the right to speak in a way that harms people. And currently, as always in history, published hate speech forms links in the critical path from protected hateful thoughts to non-protected violent acts that physically harm people. Those links are on the action side of the thought/action boundary.

    You can't tell someone that you're going to kill them and expect to get away with it. You likewise can't threaten everyone who's a member of a group, racial or otherwise, and expect to get away with it. You can think about genocide, but the moment you do something, including organizing or inciting others to carry it out, you've crossed the line. And that's when we have governments to protect us from you, not you from the consequences of your speech.

  • by EWAdams ( 953502 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:01PM (#28662157) Homepage

    Inciting sectarian hatred is not pointless there. It matters deeply and gets people killed. As it does in those large parts of the world still riven by ethnic, sectarian, and tribal divisions.

    The USA is one of the few countries that can AFFORD freedom of speech.

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:04PM (#28662185)

    "Hate crime" is a blanket term for laws that regulate speech with the intent of suppressing racism. More recently this has expanded to include homophobia. How those laws are viewed largely depends on whether the viewer feels more strongly about bigotry or censorship; whether you see a greater evil in suppression of speech or unreasoning hatred.

    I'd call censorship the greater evil, but despite that I'm ambivalent about this particular case. On the one hand, I do not think such a law ought to exist at all, on the other hand, I just can't muster any outrage at a neo-Nazi getting jailed. I suspect that it's cases like this that allow such laws to remain in effect - try to oppose the law on principle and you'll find yourself in the position of having to defend the bigots, something that even those most committed to free speech find repellent.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:14PM (#28662299)
    I disagree, the legal standard is fairly high as to when the police can intervene. It leaves more than enough room for exercising ones first amendment rights. There's all kinds of things that one can say which are protected, even though they are definitely noxious at best.

    The hate crimes legislation comes into play, at least in the US, when it crosses from just expression to incitement of violence or represents a threat to other people's safety. This isn't really that fine of a line, I'm not aware of cases going forward where it wasn't terribly obvious that it had crossed the line sometime previously.

    That being said, that's in the US, the various EU states are much more aggressive about it than we are, to the point, where you really can't seriously suggest that there is a real freedom of speech in many parts of the EU.
  • Re:!thoughtcrime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:15PM (#28662309) Journal

    I don't buy it. Maybe, just maybe if an actual crime is committed and you can link the motives of the perpetrators to speech someone else made I can see an argument for criminalizing that speech. Of course, we have conspiracy laws for that. Criminalizing speech that hasn't caused yet anyone to harm anyone is just chilling. You're essentially arguing that we should prosecute precrime. Frankly, it's much worse than the speech they are trying to stop.

  • Re:Thought crime (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oneirophrenos ( 1500619 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:19PM (#28662341)

    This is old news in Finland. We have had at least 4 convictions on dubious basis within one year. "Insulting" muslims and negroes seems to be verboten while insulting christians and white males is ok. 1984.

    As a fellow Finn I must say that I have not heard of such dubious convictions, and would be interested in seeing some proof of such. I would also like to point out that those who insult "muslims and negroes" in this country are overwhelmingly white Christian males. If there were widespread racism on the part of the non-white non-Christian population toward the ethnic majority, I can assure you that the yellow press would be all over it. It would be too lucrative for them to downplay it. So far, there has been no word of such, so I have a hard time stomaching your allegation that "insulting christians and white males is ok."

    Also worthy of note is that insulting Muslims, Christians, Blacks or Whites is perfectly allowed and legal in this country, as long as you don't insult them for being Muslims, Christians, Blacks or Whites.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:22PM (#28662371)
    That's a rather dangerous position to have. The traditional example is yelling fire in a crowded theater.

    It's somewhat like saying that during the 20s and 30s when the Klan was at the height of its power that it's OK to repeat Klan talking points, just don't be the one that's actually throwing the bombs. A bit extreme yes, but ultimately a lot of these sorts of things would never happen without a large number of people egging it on, looking the other way and backing the view that it's normal and therefore OK. The DC holocaust museum murderer and the man that killed several police officers in PA both were responding to claims which were known to be false about the Presidents position on gun control as well as racism.

    The first amendment has never been absolute, there's always been prohibitions on things such as threats, libel and slander allowing for an extra penalty for the extra damage that hate speech does when it crosses the line is perfectly reasonable. A significant amount of bigotry finds its way onto places like Fox News, there is no need for more rights considering how far one can go already without being harassed by law enforcement.
  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:25PM (#28662391)

    What they did, they did in the UK. They then fled and attempted to request asylum, which was denied. One of two things happened after that, both legal. Either their priflege of being in the US was revoked and they were deported, or the UK voiced their claim on them and they were extradited per US/UK agreements.
    Just because they put their works on a server in the US does not change the fact they were created in the UK. They UK can use this to say the crime occurred in their jurisdiction. They did what they did in the UK and it is illegal there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:26PM (#28662405)

    I suspect that it's cases like this that allow such laws to remain in effect - try to oppose the law on principle and you'll find yourself in the position of having to defend the bigots, something that even those most committed to free speech find repellent.

    "The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." - H L Mencken

    Get over that conflict. Defend the scoundrels, because when it comes time to defend your own rights, there won't be a shit ton of precedent built up against them.

  • Re:No Asylum? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animaether ( 411575 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @03:34PM (#28662483) Journal

    On top of that, how eager do you think the U.S. is to provide asylum for people who, apparently knowingly and willingly, break a law - then when they can no longer stand the heat, think they can simply get away with it by relocating to a country with more lax laws?

    "Really? Rape is illegal here? How quaint. Well then, see ya! *books flight to Somethin'stan and requests asylum*"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 11, 2009 @04:13PM (#28662793)

    Well, most people do. And these days, that's all you need to throw someone in jail forever: The consent of the people.

    Who are "most people"? Do you have a cite or statistics to back this up? I didn't think so.

    The fact of the matter is (and I'm a centrist Democrat) that minority groups of various persuasions have squealed to the media about hate motivated crimes and laws have been put through by self-righteous cappuccino Dems while vilifying anybody who dares oppose it.

    I'm from Cincinnati (yeah, we've got one hell of a past, check dangerous neighborhood listings [walletpop.com] and witness our #1 glory) and I've seen it happen: five white guys beat the shit out of a black guy and it's a hate crime. Five black guys beat the shit out of a white guy and it's just a "crime"... in fact it's business as usual. I work in the engineering field and I personally know three engineers (including a female) who have been assaulted while trying to get to data centers on off-hours calls. Hint: all the perps were black and all the victims were white.

    You can bleat anecdote and I can show you trends.

    There are just as many black racists here as there are white. I lost count of how many times I've been called cracker, honkey, casper, etc. Just for walking down the street. I've spoken to others, and yes, it's the norm. I'm a pretty big guy so nobody ever acts on it (and I'm a prior military CCW if they do), but for more "average" people you're pretty much screwed.

    And remember, when you're getting your teeth kicked out in the gutter for being a stupid white motherfucker in "our" part of town during the night, it's not a hate crime. We just don't like you straight white folks.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @04:31PM (#28662913)
    I think the US and UK must have different definitions of "hate crime." In the US, it's an act that would have been a crime anyways, but motivated by any of a specific list of taboos. In the UK, apparently the speech is a crime in itself, even if nobody gets hurt.

    Though the US version seems ripe for abuse, it still seems more sensible than the UK version, and I don't think the US version is totally unreasonable. Take the recent holocaust museum shooting [examiner.com]... a white man murders a black guard in an attack on a symbol of Judaism. Clearly it was a hate crime - not against blacks, even though that's the only person he murdered - but against Jews. But he didn't just think about hating Jews, he took forcible action to terrorize them, so I can at least see the rationale in some extra punishment for that, on top of murdering a guy.

    Speaking of the murder of the guard, cop killers get harsher sentences too, likely including death, since cops represent a symbolic group with extra risks - in other words, a hate crimes. I wonder if all those against special protections for minority groups are also against harsher penalties for killing cops, assassinating heads of state, etc?

  • by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @04:53PM (#28663083)

    It worked very well, indeed. Only after Yugoslavia was broken up in little pieces, when there was no government oppression anymore, people started being nationalistic and trying to kill all the others.

    Same thing happened in the ex-USSR republics (the war in Georgia last summer was a perfect example). In the times of USSR there were minor ethnic conflicts but worst thing could happen were some broken noses. After the government suppression was gone azeris started to kill armenians, georgians started to kill abkhasians and ossetins, chechens just started to kill everyone around.

    Seems that government suppression has some good sides after all.

  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @05:02PM (#28663153)

    still, i think the only reason the US didn't grant them asylum was because they didn't want a scandal with the UK. if those people were from, say, lebanon, i'm pretty sure the story would've had a different ending..

    I think the reasons for not granting asylum were threefold: First, because the US government didn't want to be seen as a bunch of complete idiots. Second, because they didn't want the fuckers in the USA. Third, because they didn't accept their bullshit reasoning for wanting asylum. They were just as persecuted in Britain as bank robbers and rapists are.

  • Re:!thoughtcrime (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @05:10PM (#28663207) Homepage Journal
    You're confusing civil with criminal law. Most of those websites have no legal obligation to remove anything. I run an unmoderated discussion forum and no matter how much people complain about who said what and "that's illegal", nothing gets removed without a court order. People deserve due process. Much of the censorship you speak of is voluntary... not the state's fault. Even DMCA notices can be ignored (but your hosting provider / upstream might comply).
  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @06:12PM (#28663715)

    Rather than rehash my previous arguments, I'll simply link to them:

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1299639&cid=28663451 [slashdot.org]

    Simplified: Tyrants do not rise to power in vacuum. They're given power in crises, usually because people are afraid and want the tyrant to protect them. The erosion of rights is also present, but it's not the be-all and end-all of how you get from a free society to a totalitarian one, and fixating too heavily on it makes every unjust law appear to be a sinister conspiracy by the powers-that-be.

    You or I can oppose an unjust law on the basis of its injustice, without resorting to calling its proponents "Big Brother".

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @06:22PM (#28663779)
    The only problem there is that racism is a learned response. If you prevent public displays of it, the distribution of hate speech, and the dissemination of such practices, you prevent societies' young from learning and eventually deifying that type of behavior. Hate crimes do not police people's thoughts. They help to prevent such people from spreading that hate, or inflicting it on others due to stiffer penalties. As a result, people are less likely to commit such a crime. Even with hate crimes bills, you can go your entire life despising a race or a sexual orientation and never have an issue with a hate crimes law. They affect only those that break the law in such a specific way that it is classified as a hate crime, meaning that the offender specifically went out of their way to commit a crime against a specific race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, etc. They are not automatically classified as hate crimes. They must determine that the offender purposely chose to commit a hate crime due to bias. They send a strong message to the public in general as to what is socially acceptable.

    Simply allowing this type of behavior in the open air obviously does not work. Our nation went for hundreds of years on that premise. If our nations young do not see this as acceptable and they are not inundated with it their entire lives, then it's possible they can break the cycle passed down from their parents.

    A "Nip it in the bud" method if you will.

    Every criminal act is given a severity and a punishment. These hate crime laws simply expand on that punishment for a very specific subset of criminals. I'm of two minds about the punishment though. If someone burns down a house and kills the person living there, should he/she get the same punishment as someone who actively seeks out the home of a black man and burns his house down simply because the man was black? The second seems more malicious to me, but the end result is the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 11, 2009 @06:59PM (#28664033)

    I hope your God one day deigns to assist you in gaining some perspective.

    First of all, Obama is not anything like a Socialist. European states that any reasonable political scientist would describe as essentially capitalist have socialized many more industries than will ever fall under government ownership in the US (this is true even under the assumption that every policy Obama wants to see implemented is implemented, which is unlikely).

    Second of all, tyranny will never again manifest in the way it did in the first half of the 20th century. Totalitarianism very clearly failed as a means to suppress a population, because citizens of totalitarian nations were aware at all times whom their enemy was. The system implemented currently in the US, from which I don't think we'll see much deviation barring a first order natural or political disaster, is much more tenable: a corporate oligarchy that uses their financial power to control a changing cast of politicians and their market saturation to encourage mass complacency. This system results in the illusion of democracy and freedom, and it ensures that the average citizen has too much at stake to consider any sort of revolutionary activity.

    So, the end of that slippery slope? We're there. The sled ride is over. It's not so bad if you're solvent, but you're not really free. The Left and the Right aren't really the bogeymen, so you should get over that. If this sounds like conspiracy theory, it's not, because there is no centrally organized conspiracy. The system has its own inertia, and it enables those with the means to take advantage of those without.

  • Re:Thought crime (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @07:39PM (#28664253)

    Of course, you can't choose the color of your skin, but you CAN choose your mythology. So it's a little unfair to compare the two.

    Also -- "negroes"? What the fuck, man. 1984? Are you sure you're not stuck in 1884?

  • by SpinyNorman ( 33776 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @07:39PM (#28664257)

    Well, this case was about two British guys running an anti-Jew hate site (including photos of dead Jews). There's nothing in the least bit idealistic or defensible about it other than the moronic "free speech! we must allow everything!" cry.

    If a rogue US scientist got convicted of passing nuclear know-how to a terrorist group, what's the betting the ./ mob will be howling at the idealistic outrage of it. He was an American! He had the right to say whatever he liked in that e-mail!

    I've often joked that programming is a disease as much as a profession exactly because the logical thought patterns do tend to spill over into real-life where they are grossly inappropriate. A or B, free or not, may make sense in a program but shades of grey and intelligent discrimination tend to work better when dealing with humanity (you know, that carbon based stuff).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 11, 2009 @08:09PM (#28664429)

    May I ask why Americans get so upset about flag buring?

    Probably because most Americans recited the pledge of allegiance every morning during their formative years

    "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    Burning the flag probably trips a bit of firmware in their heads, forcing them to see, instead, the burning of the entire Republic.

  • by zymano ( 581466 ) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @09:35PM (#28664751)

    Can't keep your money and now you can't say what you think.

    What freedom is left there?

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @12:15AM (#28665329) Journal

    It only figures that if blacks get the idea they're regularly getting verbally and physically attacked by whites, they're going to do the same right back.

    And yes, you just exposed the fallacy of the "hate crime" ... It's not applied universally. Rather, it's a tool to try to combat perceived inequalities between "minorities" and white males. (Heck, even a white female can qualify as long as she can show it was a male of ANY race who attacked her. Women are minorities too, you know....)

    The way things work in society today, it's really the white male vs. all others. And until we eliminate all the favoritism based one someone's race or ethnic background, we're probably stuck with things this way for a long time to come. (Everyone believes the white male is about the only one who isn't "owed" some sort of compensation or assistance, at least here in the USA -- and if the white male happens to be homosexual, he might STILL be able to claim a need for that extra help.)

    Honestly, I think the single biggest thing that might eventually tear this down is inter-racial dating. When enough of the population is asked for their race and has to check-mark "mixed", then we'll reach a crossroads where it no longer makes sense to try to categorize people by race.

  • I think flag burning is symbolic of an idea that is so alien to many of us that we don't really comprehend the symbol.

    If you had never studied history, would you know that burning a cross on someone's front lawn is a racist symbol? I've heard of cross burning and probably seen it portrayed in a movie somewhere, but it doesn't really hold any particular significance for me, since I'm not aware that anyone I know is a racist or the victim of that kind of racism. Flag burning doesn't hold any particular significance for me either, probably for the same reason. I understand it's done in protest of.. something, but I don't really get it.

  • by hutchike ( 837402 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @02:24AM (#28665735) Homepage Journal
    They have this weird "pledge of allegiance" thing they do at school every day to brainwash the kids into a kind of belief system. It's all a bit North Korea - you can search for it on YouTube or such like, and watch with incredulity. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuZB1CsRwd0 [youtube.com]
  • by The_Quinn ( 748261 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @04:14AM (#28666013) Homepage

    ... a careful marketing plan put in place by corporate powers who feel cheated when someone on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder makes ten cents more per hour.

    I am pro-liberty because that's what human's need to survive and prosper. You should not speak from ignorance about why people believe the things they believe.

    If we give everyone health care, after all, how are we going to force them to keep working for wages?

    In a Capitalist system, force is abolished from human relationships. Only Socialist systems institute and regiment the enslavement of people.

    If we educate people, after all, how are we going to fill the factories with minimum wage workers?

    Millions, maybe billions, of people would be more than grateful to emigrate to the U.S. and make minimum wage (or less), just to have a hope for a decent life. (And we should let them).

    If people stop believing in their patriarchal God the Father, expecting to go to heaven, they're going to expect better lives now

    I am an atheist and I have no idea what you are talking about.

    ... and want to keep from fouling their planet, which would be bad for profits.

    We are not fouling the planet, but if fouling the planet were the best way to have humans live long and happy lives, then by god - let the fouling commence!!

  • by arethuza ( 737069 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @07:31AM (#28666551)

    Now can I point out that we (certainly in the UK) appear to have freedom *from* that kind of thing?

    To be honest - the fact that American kids are made to do this sounds infinitely scarier to me than our silly "hate crime" laws. Does everyone have to do it? What happens to kids who won't do it?

  • by Landshark17 ( 807664 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @12:31PM (#28667957)
    American kids aren't required to take the pledge, they are allowed to be silent throughout, but they must stand respectfully with everyone else while it is recited. From about 7th grade on, I skipped over the "Under God" part of the pledge because I realized it didn't make sense for someone as secular as me to be saying that (also about the same time I started saying "Gesundheit" instead of "God bless you" when people sneeezed).

    When American schoolkids take the pledge every morning it's done with the about the same effort and investment that anything schoolkids do at 8 o'clock in the morning, which is not much. Just the same, the repetition of it for all 12 years of schooling (it doesn't continue on into college) and the ubiquity of the flag in American culture just engrains it in everyone as a symbol that's always there. Americans put flags on everything. Lapel pins, bumper stickers, regular stickers, cakes, cookies, product packaging, you can find flag-patterned clothing from boxer shorts to parkas if you look hard enough, they hang outside every school, inside just about every classrooom and auditorium within the schools, outside people's houses and around every national holiday they hang from every single telephone pole on the main drag of every town. If you see something all over the place every day, it becomes something you expect to see, whether it symbolizes something or not. I beleive people should be able to burn a flag as part of a peaceful protest, but if I woke up tomorrow and every flag had magically vanished, it would still feel a bit funny and I'd probably ask where they went. The flag is part of everyday life. It's an everyday object, not just something that gets trotted out for patriotic holidays and then put back into storage. So when someone burns the flag, they're burning something that's part of everyday American life.

    I should note that not everyone feels this way about the flag. A good number of people like myself see it as the symbol of something larger, and not the end-all be-all of American ideals. It's those that fall into the latter category that usually end up getting more air-time so that's what the world sees of us.
  • by bogjobber ( 880402 ) on Sunday July 12, 2009 @03:08PM (#28668939)

    Usually everyone does it. Kids that don't do it in some places might be chastised (and have been in the past) but nobody's actually required to do it. It's more of a social thing, such as how you are supposed to face and salute the flag when the national anthem is played. I'm sure it seems strange to someone who's not from here, but it sounds a lot creepier than it actually is.

    Full text of the pledge of allegiance: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

    The US is a much more openly patriotic country than European countries, for better or worse. It's part jingoism, part honest patriotism, and partly a way to indoctrinate new immigrants. The pledge of allegiance was created around the same time as many of our national myths (Paul Revere, Thanksgiving, etc.), and was part of a conscious effort to create a universal American culture that could be easily taught to the growing and increasingly diverse American population.

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