Google ‘harbours racists’
Thursday October 26th 2006, 7:54 pm

Cross-posted from FightDemBack!, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald

your host (image:The Sydney Morning Herald/mgk:Machine Gun Keyboard

Online vigilante* Brian Stokes (weez) at work.

Racist blogs targeting minority groups in Australia are springing up on the web, but Google’s Blogger, the service some are hosted on, refuses to take them offline, says an anti racism lobby group.

“Blogger is absolutely insensitive to complaints about racist and neo-Nazi content,” said Brian Stokes, co-founder of FightDemBack!, a group that monitors the activities of racists, fascists and other such offenders operating in Australia and New Zealand.

Blogger, owned by Google, enables anyone to create a blog or online journal, and publish their thoughts online using internet space provided by Blogger.

Mr Stokes said his group had reported numerous discriminatory Blogger journals to Google, both through the “flag” button that appears on each blog and through an email form that Mr Stokes said was “buried in their site, very hard to find”.

Mr Stokes said his appeals had fallen on deaf ears at Google.

“Most other outfits [that provide free web space] like Angelfire and Tripod actually do respond,” he said.”We have probably knocked about 25 or 30 Nazi, white supremacist, racist in general websites off the web, in the two and a bit years [since the group founded],” he said.

He refers specifically to two Blogger journals that Google has refused to remove from the web – Patriot Alliance Downunder and Red Watch NZ.

“Patriot Alliance Downunder comprises a number of patriots and nationalists alike from New Zealand and Australia,” its blog reads.

“We … hope to preserve and defend our heritage, culture, customs, traditions, morals, and values, as well as our blood itself, against hostile alien elements that are destructive to who we are and we as a race hold dear.”

The blog posts photographs and full names of anti-racism activists from Australia and New Zealand, in effect making this information available to those who wish to do these activists physical harm.

It also publicly endorses and links to the recent racist online board game based on last year’s Cronulla riots, but it denies that it’s a “hate” group.

Mr Stokes said that the owner of the Patriot Alliance Downunder blog was Ben Weerheym, convicted for being a getaway driver in a racist graffiti attack by neo-Nazi group Australian Nationalist Movement.

Patriot Alliance Downunder does not list Weerheym as the owner of the blog, but he has signed certain postings with his name.

While the Patriot Alliance Downunder blog says its musings are simply nationalistic, Red Watch NZ is more overtly racist.

“Red Watch NZ is here to combat Communism and Zionism within our borders,” reads the blog, which openly endorses the Nazi movement.

“Today is a sad day for National Socialists all over the world. Today in 1946, the Eternal Jew managed to swindle the Allied Nations into hanging 10 of our comrades at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial,” reads a post published on the anniversary of the Nuremberg trials written by author “We Hate The Jews!”.

Mr Stokes said Red Watch NZ was operated by Nic Miller, “famous for stunts like publishing a photo of FDB NZ activist Asher Goldman’s mother’s tombstone, leafleting Goldman’s neighbourhood with libellous material, publishing photos of activists’s parents’ homes and their street addresses, [and] much more”.

The tombstone post Mr Stokes mentions is still online, as are numerous posts that include photos, street addresses and even phone numbers of various activists.

Miller is not listed as the owner of Red Watch NZ, but some recent postings have been signed with his name.

“I think what Google intends is not to restrict people’s freedom of speech,” Mr Stokes said.

“But we’re talking about bashing up brown people and defaming them. This isn’t politics, this is terrorism.”

Both blogs appear to violate Blogger’s user agreement, particularly Red Watch NZ.

Blogger’s terms of service reads: “Member agrees not to transmit through the Service any unlawful, harassing, libelous, abusive, threatening, or harmful material of any kind or nature. Member further agrees not to transmit any material that encourages conduct that could constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any applicable local, state, national or international law or regulation.”

Whether or not the blogs invite legal action under Australian law isn’t immediately clear, Simeon Beckett, president of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights organisation said.

“The Racial Discrimination Act [federal legislation] and Anti-Discrimination Act [state legislation] both prohibit racial vilification. It doesn’t make that a criminal offence, but it does make it unlawful for a person to do an act which is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group. As long as that act is done because of the person’s race,” he said.

Mr Beckett hasn’t visited Red Watch NZ or Patriot Alliance Downunder, but, based on our description of the blogs, he said their actions were probably in violation of Australian law.

Regardless, he said there might be difficulties in enforcing the law because it’s highly likely that Blogger’s servers are located overseas.

“Trying to enforce a right under Australian law in the US makes it complicated and cumbersome,” he said.

Google refused to divulge where its servers are located.

Mr Beckett also said that, since the authors of the blogs have only posted names, addresses and photos of anti-racism activists, and don’t appear to have explicitly incited violence against them (even if violence is implied), pursuing legal action would be difficult.

“I think there may be difficulties if all there was available was the name and address of the anti-racism activists,” he said.

In its terms of service, Pyra (the company that founded Blogger, now acquired by Google) says that it is not liable for the contents of user blogs, but Mr Beckett suggests that this might not legally be the case.

“If it’s an Australian server, and Google itself has listed a blog that’s racist in Australia, it may be acting unlawfully itself,” he said.

Google, whose corporate motto is “don’t be evil”, says it will take the blogs in question offline only if ordered to do so by a court.

“Blogger is a provider of content creation tools, not a mediator of that content,” a Google spokesman said.

“We allow our users to create blogs, but we don’t make any claims about the content of these pages. In cases where contact information for the author is listed on the page, we recommend working directly with this person to have this information removed or changed. We would only remove content from this blog if ordered to do so by a court order,” the spokesman said.

smh.com.au

*Thanks to the SMH for giving this issue the attention it deserves… but ‘vigilante’ is a bit much. :D

-weez


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Nice job, good to see you receiving some mainstream press!

Comment by Dan 10.29.06 @ 3:28 pm

Thanks, Dan.

There’s more where that came from. Stay tuned. ;)

Comment by weez 10.29.06 @ 3:58 pm

[...] However, this can go to the extreme of total disclaiming of responsibility of user-generated content, as in the case of Google/Blogger protecting specifically defamatory material posted by neo-nazis and blogs maintained by paedophilia advocates. Google will NOT remove user generated content, despite the terms of their TOS, unless ordered to do so by a court which has legal jurisdiction over Google Inc. [...]

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