Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
OPINION Rights lost in cyberspace
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 16 Jun 2006, p. 6

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Whether or not Georgetown resident Craig Harrison is found responsible of posting hate propaganda on a Toronto website is something that won't be determined for months. Not that Harrison, who spent two years in jail for assaulting a black Georgetown shopkeeper while shouting racial slurs, will likely care as he stormed out of his three-day Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing in Toronto after only a few hours and never returned. The hearing, which wrapped up Wednesday, was prompted by a complaint from Ottawa lawyer Richard Warman who testified he found several racist or threatening messages on a website that he believes were posted by Harrison. If found responsible for the postings, Harrison faces a penalty of up to $10,000 and a permanent court order preventing him from posting hate propaganda on the Internet. As distasteful as this case is, the bigger issue is how the Internet can be misused and what little power police and the courts have to deal with that misuse. Law enforcement officials admit they are dealing with outdated laws that have not kept pace with the Internet. Hate propaganda has been made more accessible through the Internet and police are often hamstrung when trying to prove who posted the material. Blogs, "community forums", comment rooms and other such avenues on the Internet are becoming more popular, but do not face the restrictions (i.e. libel/ slander laws) that mainstream media do. Inaccurate, malicious and damaging material can often be found on these sites but the people administrating the sites and/or posting messages can hide behind the cloak of anonymity or the all-encompassing "right to freedom of speech" argument. But what of the rights of their targets? Should they not have legal recourse? Is everyone and everything fair game? Certainly no one wants to see Big Brother controlling cyberspace but when blatant abuses have occurred there must be just penalties in place to protect the rights of those maligned. It's time our lawmakers catch up with the technology.

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16 Jun 2006
Personal Name(s):
Harrison, Craig ; Warman, Richard
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Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
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OPINION Rights lost in cyberspace