Global Internet Liberty Campaign
Dear Sir or Madam:
Search as I did on your website, I could not find the name of the executive director of your organization, so I am forced to address you as "Dear Sir/Madam." My apologies.
As the author and maintainer of a controversial web page, I am very interested in Internet censorship and the work of your group.
I understand that, among other things, the Global Internet Liberty Campaign "advocates prohibiting prior censorship of on-line communication."
Your web page also tells me that GILC invites "our fellow users from around the world who are interested in taking concerted action to protect the Internet to join us in this campaign."
Furthermore, your webpage states:
"There are no borders in cyberspace. Actions by individual governments
and multi-national organizations can have a profound
effect on the rights of citizens around the world. The member organizations of GILC have joined together to protect and promote
fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and the right of
privacy on the net for users everywhere."
I understand you recently held a GILC meeting in Canada on Net Policy. According to the URL
--the conference devoted to the theme of "The Public Voice in the Development of Internet Policy" was held on 7 October 1998. The meeting examined privacy, encryption, free speech, Internet access, consumer, and human rights issues. Canadian Industry Minister John Manley welcomed the conference.
In light of these facts, I was surprised to learn that a Toronto resident, Mr. Ernst Zundel, offered to speak to your group, and that his offer was ignored by you. I should have thought he'd fit right in.
No doubt Mr. Zundel is a controversial figure. He is a holocaust revisionist who claims there was no Hitler-designed Nazi program to exterminate the Jews. Much of his research and views can be found at
Groups and individuals offended by the content of Mr. Zundel's free speech have taken a number of actions, ranging from filing court actions against him to fire-bombing his house.
At the moment, though, Mr. Zundel is under investigation by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The CHRC claims jurisdiction over "hate speech" on the telephone lines in Canada. Furthermore, CHRC charges that the Internet is "like a telephone" and that the CHRC therefore has jurisdiction over Mr. Zundel's use of the Internet.
The CHRC recently ruled that Mr. Zundel cannot use the truth of his statements as a defense before the commission. The CHRC words, were, in part:
". . . consistent with a focus on effect rather than intent, it is the effect of the message on the recipient, and ultimately on the person or group vilified, that is the focus of the analysis. The truth in some absolute sense really plays no role. Rather, it is the social context in which the message is delivered and heard which will determine the effect that the communication will have on the listener. It is not the truth or falsity per se that will evoke the emotion but rather how it is understood by the recipient. The objective truth of the statement is ultimately of no consequence if the subjective interpretation, by virtue of tone, social context and medium is one which 'arouses unusually strong and deep-felt emotions of detestation, calumny and vilification'. Therefore, in our view, whether the message is true or not is immaterial. Whether it is perceived to be true or credible may very well add to its impact, but its actual basis in truth is outside the scope of this inquiry."
(For your convenience, here is the URL that will lead you to the full text of that decision.
Surely both the "Internet is like a telephone" and "truth is no defense" are remarkable legal theories, and the CHRC's case against Zundel case is a remarkable case.
I am currently preparing an article about the Zundel case, and the response
of the Internet free speech community to it. I write to ask you to contribute
to this article by answering the following questions:
Carol A. Valentine
President, Public Action, Inc.
Curator, Waco Holocaust Electronic Museum
PS. According to
GILC had a number of special panels devoted to examining specific issues. One such panel concerned free speech "on a global level."
The moderator of this session was Barry Steinhardt, Electronic Frontier Foundation. Taking part in the discussion were the following persons:
* Yaman Akdeniz, Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties UK
* Pippa Lawson, Public Interest Advocacy Center
* Meryem Marzouki, Imaginons un Reseau Internet Soldaire
* Sid Shniad, BC Telecommunications Workers Union
* Rigo Wenning, Förderverein Informationstechnik undGesellschaft
* Jim Dempsey, Center for Democracy and Technology
GILC also had a panel discussion on "Human Rights in the 21st Century." The questions explored included:
* What is the next generation of rights?
* How are the current rights enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other International agreements going to apply in the electronic world?
The moderator at this panel discussion was Marc Rotenberg, Electronic Privacy Information Center . The following persons were scheduled to be on the panel.
* Harry Hochheiser, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility,
* "One Planet, One Net" campaign and conference
* Jagdish Parikh, Human Rights Watch
* Edwin Rekosh, Columbia University
* Felipe Rodriguez, Electronic Frontiers Australia
* Laurie Wiseberg, Human Rights Internet
Again, I am puzzled: Why did GILC not take Mr. Zundel up on his offer to address the conference? It seems that he would have fit in nicely on either of these two panel discussions. Thank you.
Also see the letter co-authored by GILC to the OECD encouraging the
inclusion of the public voice in OECD meetings. [fr]
Statement of Principles
The Global Internet Liberty Campaign was formed at the annual meeting
of the Internet Society in Montreal. Members of the coalition include the
American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center,
Human Rights Watch, the Internet Society, Privacy International, the Association
des Utilisateurs d'Internet, and other civil liberties and human rights
ALCEI - Associazione per la Libertà nella Comunicazione Elettronica
American Civil Liberties Union*
Association des Utilisateurs d'Internet*
Association pour la Promotion d'Internet en Polynésie Française
Bulgarian Institute for Legal Development
Bevcom Internet Technologies
Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain
Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand School of Law.
Center for Democracy and Technology
Committee to Protect Journalists
CommUnity - The Computer Communicators Association
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK)
Derechos Human Rights
Digital Citizens Foundation Netherlands
Digital Freedom Network
engagierte Computer ExpertInnen (eCE)
Electronic Frontiers Australia*
Electronic Frontier Canada*
Electronic Frontier Foundation*
Electronic Frontiers Texas*
Electronic Privacy Information Center*
Feminists Against Censorship
Forum InformatikerInnen fuer Frieden und gesellschaftliche Verantwortung (FIfF) e.V.
Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG)
Fronteras Electronicas España (FrEE)*
Human Rights Watch*
Imaginons un Réseau Internet Solidaire (IRIS)
Index on Censorship
National Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty)
Open Society Institute
PEN American Center
Singapore Internet Community (SInterCom)
*Denotes Founding Member
The Global Internet Liberty Campaign is supported by a grant from the Open Society Insitute