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Landmark Decision on Race Hate and the Internet

Landmark Decision on Race Hate and the Internet

In the first Australian court decision on race hate and the Internet, the Federal Court today found that a website that denied the Holocaust and vilified Jewish people was unlawful under Australia's Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Federal Court Justice Branson ordered Adelaide Institute director Fredrick Toben to remove offensive material from the World Wide Web, saying she was "satisfied that it is more probable than not that the material would engender in Jewish Australians a sense of being treated contemptuously, disrespectfully and offensively".

She ordered Dr Toben to remove the document "About the Adelaide Institute" and similar documents; and other material that cast doubt on the Holocaust, suggested homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz were unlikely, that Jewish people offended by and who challenge Holocaust denial are of limited intelligence and that some Jewish people, for improper purposes, including financial gain, exaggerated the number of Jews killed during World War II and the circumstances in which they were killed.

Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr William Jonas AM, welcomed today's decision, saying: "This case confirms that, at least for Australian sites, the Internet is subject to the same legal standards as other forms of communications such as print, TV and radio. This is the first Australian case where the Act has been applied to the Internet. Applying Australian law to the Internet is difficult when the site is created outside Australia but, in this case, the site was created within Australia."

President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Mr Jeremy Jones, applied to the Federal Court to enforce a 5 October 2000 determination of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission that found the website breached the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The Act makes it unlawful to insult, humiliate, offend or intimidate another person or group in public on the basis of their race. The Act exempts certain publications and other activities provided they are done reasonably and in good faith. These include artistic works, fair and accurate reports on matters of public interest and academic publications.

Dr Jonas said that he was aware of other Australian websites that may breach the standards of the Act. "Those who disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred through the Internet in Australia need to take heed of this decision," he said.

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